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Nationalise ALL banks and finance institutions as the foundation for a socialist economy
by Shaun Arendse, Executive Committee
On 7 March President Ramaphosa announced in parliament that the ANC government will nationalise the Reserve Bank. He explained that the ANC had taken a “clear resolution that the Bank should be owned by the people of SA”. This was adopted as policy at the ANC’s 2017 conference under the pressure of their factional struggle. However, coming from the billionaire Ramaphosa, this latest announcement is not aimed at genuinely transforming the lives of working class and poor people.
Rather, Ramaphosa is trying to out-manoeuvre the Zuma-linked ‘radical economic transformation’ faction within the ANC who have been championing the policy. They would portray any delays in implementing the ANC resolution as proof that Ramaphosa is the puppet of ‘white monopoly capital’. Also, as the election approaches the EFF would use the issue in the same way.
Out-manoeuvring his political opponents by implementing ‘their’ policies is the same tactic that Ramaphosa used over the issue of land expropriation without compensation. It is not too difficult for this tactic to succeed. This is because none of the ANC factions or any of the parties in parliament stands for anything other than the defence of the capitalist profit system.
The rhetoric of ‘radical economic transformation’ is in reality the programme of a section of the aspirant black capitalist class. They are not rich enough for their liking and want to use the capitalist state to accumulate wealth. This was the class interest underlying Zuma’s crude ‘state-capture’ policy. Historically, it was how the aspirant Afrkaner capitalist class used the apartheid state. Up to a point, Ramaphosa can balance the interests of the aspirant black capitalists with those of the established capitalist class (who at least were willing to give him a seat at their dinner table!) who above all else demand a ‘stable’ economic environment to guarantee their property and profits. There is no fundamental contradiction.
Letting the ‘cat out of the bag’ in January, the bosses’ newspaper Business Day published an editorial explaining that: “Ownership is not key to the operation of central banks, so in most cases it is irrelevant whether they are owned by the state or private shareholders.” They went so far as to call the debate a “red herring”.
Across the world-capitalist economy it is unusual for a reserve (or central) bank to have private shareholders. Only six other countries are in the same boat as South Africa. The imperialist countries that dominate the South African economy, for example the UK and USA, have wholly government-owned central banks. This is to say nothing of the government-owned and -controlled People’s Bank of China under the Chinese state-capitalist regime.
Bosses’ economic dictatorship
The real issue for the capitalist class, both in South Africa and internationally, is the so-called “political independence” of reserve and central banks. In the media the need for this is put forward as common sense.
But this ‘common sense’ is new. It only emerged as part of the worldwide neo-liberal capitalist counter-revolution of the late 1970s. After a period of economic crisis and sharp class conflict the bosses and capitalist politicians decided they needed to put the most basic levers of the capitalist economy beyond the democratic reach of the working class and poor majority – in case they elected left-wing or socialist governments. Control of central and reserve banks was therefore handed-over to unelected bureaucrats and ‘specialists’. This undemocratic regime developed its international mirror. Equally unelected and unaccountable credit ratings agencies became the capitalist class’s global police force. Doing whatever they demand is also now presented as ‘common sense’.
In keeping with capitalist ‘best practise’, the SA Reserve Bank’s “political independence” is guaranteed by the same constitution which defends capitalist property rights. The Reserve Bank is mandated by the constitution to control interest rates in order to control inflation (price rises). This encourages restraint in government spending on health, education, housing and services. It rewards austerity of the sort that Ramaphosa and Mboweni delivered in their February budget. It promotes tax cuts for the rich, privatisation and outsourcing, as well as unemployment and the holding down of wages across the economy.
The debate around the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank could shine a light on the real class interests of the bosses that a so-called “independent” Reserve Bank serves. This is what is really making some SA capitalists nervous.
A socialist policy
Should the Reserve Bank be nationalised? We say YES! Kick-out the 650 private shareholders. But why stop there? The ‘big four’ SA banks – Standard Bank, ABSA, FNB and Nedbank – made profits of R40.1 billion in the first six months of 2018. This is where the wealth is sitting for socialist economic transformation in the interests of the working class and poor. The entire financial system, including the ‘big four’ banks and the major insurance companies, should be nationalised. This would lay the foundation for a democratically planned economy run in the interests of the working class and poor.
But we do not want a nationalised banking sector run by unelected pro-capitalist bureaucrats anymore than we want a Reserve Bank run by them. The economy must be under the democratic control and management of the working class.
Our answer to the propaganda that Reserve Bank “independence” is necessary to control inflation is simple – price controls democratically supervised and enforced by workers and communities. If bosses ignore these controls and try, for example, to off-set wage-rises by increasing prices their companies should be occupied by workers and nationalised too. If the bosses try and sabotage a socialist economy with ‘capital flight’ (i.e. taking their money overseas) a workers’ government would put in place capital controls to keep the money here. Appeals would have to be made to workers in other countries for class solidarity and to lay the foundations for a worldwide socialist plan of production.
On this socialist basis the working class can enjoy full employment, permanent jobs, a living wage, high quality and affordable housing, health, education and other services. Workers must organise to demand that their trade unions take-up this programme as the only answer to the fake radicalism in the ‘debates’ of the capitalist politicians around the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank. We must expose their rhetoric and their propaganda and demand a society genuinely run in the interests of the majority.
In the mass class struggles that will develop under the weight of capitalism’s economic crisis this programme must be adopted as part of the working class’s war plan for conquering the commanding heights of the economy. Workers need to campaign for a socialist programme in their trade unions and a leadership willing to fight for it. This must include the trade unions taking the lead in the creation of a mass workers party capable uniting the working class in mass struggle guided by a socialist programme.
- Reject the window-dressing of capitalist politicians! Nationalise the Reserve Bank as part of the socialist transformation of the finance system. Kick-out the capitalist bureaucrats and ‘specialists’. For a socialist economic policy in the interests of the working class and poor majority.
- Place society’s wealth in the hands of the working class! Nationalise under democratic working class control Standard Bank, ABSA, FNB and Nedbank along with the entire financial sector. Guarantee the savings of all working and middle class people and small businesses. Bond and debt relief for struggling home-owners and small businesses. Abolish garnishee orders!
- Combat the sabotage of the bosses! For a state monopoly of foreign trade alongside capital and price controls enforced by democratically elected committees of workers and poor communities. Lock-out the bosses in non-complying industries through workplace occupations. Demand nationalisation under workers control. Build solidarity and international links with the workers of the world – lay the basis for a worldwide socialist plan of production.
- Conquer the commanding heights of the economy for the working class and poor majority! Nationalise under democratic working class and community control the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses and retailers. A publicly owned and democratically planned socialist economy to meet the needs of all and not the profits of the capitalists.
- Forge the fighting unity of the working class in a party of mass struggle! Build a socialist mass workers party to unite the struggles of the workplaces, the communities and the youth as a vital step toward the creation of a mass revolutionary party to lead the socialist transformation of society!
- For a socialist South Africa, a socialist Africa and a socialist world!
End oppression with fight for socialism
by Clare Doyle for CWI International Secretariat
On Friday, 8th March, women across the globe are striking, marching, protesting and celebrating International Women’s Day in unprecedented numbers. In a welcome development, they will be accompanied by more men than in the past who see the need to fight the special oppression of women.
Not all those who mark this special day will know its historical origin in the strikes, struggles and conferences of working and socialist women at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. It is also the day to honour the lives of women pioneers and socialists. We remember Eleanor Marx – daughter of the great socialist theoretician and fighter, Karl Marx – who worked tirelessly to build the strength of the workers’ movement – male and female. We honour the heroic revolutionary, Rosa Luxembourg, brutally murdered a century ago this year.
Chosen by socialists in 1910, International Women’s Day has been a day for women workers to strike and demand a better deal. It was this day in Petrograd, 1917, that women textile workers left their machines to march to the Tsar’s palace demanding food for their children and an end to the devastating war. When workers from the neighbouring factories downed tools in response to their appeal, the revolution became unstoppable. When the Bolsheviks took power nine months later, among their first decrees were sweeping reforms to change the lives of women.
The promise of ‘A New Life’ for working women in the cities and in the countryside – on the basis of state ownership of land and industry, along with truly democratic planning – was broken by Stalin’s counter-revolution. They toiled in the factories and the fields and toiled in the home, bringing up the next generation of workers.
Women and revolution
The oppression of women has been an endemic feature of all class societies. It will not be ended until the prerequisites for a classless society are firmly established through the elimination of capitalism.
Now, in the 21st century, international movements have shown that the conditions exist for a workers’ revolution to leap from country to country in the industrialised world as well as in the still developing ex-colonial countries. To achieve this, a party is vitally needed that stands for workers’ democracy and socialism on the basis of state ownership of land, industry and finance and one that can harness the might of the working class internationally.
More than ten years after the financial crisis of 2007-8, there has been no real recovery in the world economy. In most countries growth is sluggish at best and new generations of workers are on the scrap heap before they can begin to make a life for themselves. Personal debt and government debts have never been higher. Living standards plummet, or at best stagnate, even in the most prosperous of countries.
In Europe and the US, policies of austerity have hit women hardest. Many of the hard-won steps forward in the lives of working women are being reversed. The welfare services on which they depend and in which they work are being cut to the bone, with the care of the young, the sick and the aged falling mainly on their shoulders. They are forced to take low-paid, insecure jobs or claim state assistance which is also being cut to the bone through austerity. Women’s oppression bears down the heaviest on working class and poor women. They find themselves less able to leave an unhappy or a violent relationship for lack of an independent income or available alternative housing.
While the rich get richer, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population live in what seems like unending poverty. A handful of billionaires own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest half the world’s population. Even the capitalist class and its advisers are wary of the tsunami of revolt that could be already in the making.
In France, there has been an eruption of anger against the government of the one-time banker, Emmanuel Macron. A ‘middle layer’ in society including professionals and small business people along with workers who live in ‘peripheral’ small towns and villages have seen their living standards plummet.
The Gilets Jaunes protests are marked by the substantial participation of women – probably about 50%. The entry of the organised working class, with sustained strike action, into this very determined ‘uprising’ would give it the necessary strength to overthrow not just the government but the bosses’ rule in one of the major capitalist powers in the world, and the transformation of society along socialist lines, if led by a mass party of the working class with a Marxist leadership. This would indeed set the prairie fire ablaze!
In the absence of major struggles on the political or industrial plane internationally, movements have nevertheless taken place on important issues like the environment, abortion rights, violence against women, anti-racism, caste discrimination, LGBTQ rights etc. which for the most part are currently not linked to the broader labour movement.
These movements reflect an important radicalisation by a new generation of young people in particular, and the potential for the development of an anti-capitalist consciousness. However, it is necessary for socialist feminists to politically challenge those pro-capitalist feminist ideas present in women’s movements globally which believe that the oppression of women can be resolved within capitalist society. To the ideas which prioritise sectional struggles by oppressed groups, we counterpose the vital importance of the centrality of a united struggle by the working class and poor to end oppression.
Universities are ideology factories that churn out obfuscation and hostility to socialism on behalf of capitalism. A tendency to prioritise “identity” over class abounds and serves to divide rather than unite the forces ranged against the system.
As socialist feminists, we recognise that the real liberation of women is entirely linked to the need to get rid of capitalism – which, based on inequalities of power and wealth sustains and perpetuates women’s oppression. We base ourselves on the working class as the key force in society to bring about real and lasting change.
Feminism and class struggle
The new wave of mass movements against women’s oppression is to be welcomed by all socialists. However, we must fight for these movements to really enhance women’s struggle against the specific oppression they face in capitalist society. With the spread of the #MeToo phenomenon world-wide – from the US through Europe and recently to China – there has never been more awareness of and opposition to the horrors for women of sexual harassment and rape. There has been an upturn in mass protests by women (and men) on this issue and some of the myriad of other issues that blight the lives of half the world’s population.
There is no end to the horrific revelations about sexual harassment at the ‘top’ of society, particularly in the worlds of entertainment and politics These resonated powerfully throughout the world because of how endemic sexual harassment and violence also is amongst working and poor women. Comparatively, there is still little or no publicity for the millions upon millions of women who daily face sexual abuse and rape – at work in the fields, in the markets and in the factories across the world.
Seventy one per cent of the 40.3 million people living in some form of modern slavery are women and girls. An additional 15.4 million people are estimated to be living in forced marriages. The overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees and of the world’s homeless are also women and children. In many countries around the globe abortion is illegal and rape within marriage is not recognised as a crime.
On the other hand, in many countries a working-class fight back of one kind or another is gaining momentum. In Scotland we saw 8,000 council workers who were mostly women strike for equal pay and win, with the support of other male colleagues taking illegal strike action. There have been protests at Walmart, McDonalds and Amazon issues of women’s rights. The Google workers’ global walkout showed how the potential anger on this issue to be channelled into workers’ action.
There have been mass strikes of women garment-workers in Bangladesh for a living wage and walkouts of women on the tea plantations in Sri Lanka for 1,000 rupees a day (just US$ 5.5). There have been mass protests against discrimination in India, against femicide in Argentina, Brazil and Italy. We have seen women across the world involved in numerous protests on housing, abortion rights and against austerity. In Ireland, nurses and midwives have been on strike in a struggle over pay and conditions.
There is a myriad of ways in which women are denied freedom of choice in their daily lives. It is incumbent on socialists to explain their origin and to be fully involved in campaigns to achieve real advances for working women.
We unstintingly fight for a society which is free of all forms of oppression and exploitation on the grounds of gender, race or sexual orientation. This means conducting a tireless struggle for a socialist society where private property is replaced by public ownership and control over a planned economy is in the hands of democratically elected representatives of working and poor people.
It should be the right of all women to be able to choose when and if to have children. However, in societies dominated by landlordism and capitalism, they are prevented by totally inadequate resources as well as all kinds of religious and ‘cultural’ prejudices.
While education, up-bringing and religion can play a big role in perpetuating stereotypes and encouraging the oppression and harassment of women, socialists see the roots of these attitudes in the division of society into classes. For slave-owners, feudal lords and capitalists the family has been a vital construct for transmitting their property and wealth from one generation to another. Under their rule the male slaves, vassals and workers are a useful ‘transition belt’, as the revolutionary Leon Trotsky described it, for the idea of discipline. Obedience to the male in the household trains women and children to comply with orders from above.
The role of women, as far as the owners of industry and land are concerned, apart from providing cheap labour in the factories or on the land, has been to provide unpaid labour in the production and care of the next generation of workers. Within the family, they are also expected to look after those who can no longer work through illness or old age. Over the years, reforms that alleviate the burdens on women have been won but not without a fight and sometimes the threat of a fight.
After the Second World War, education, health and welfare provisions in the US and Europe – especially France and Britain – were the product of a huge radicalisation, especially amongst returning soldiers, and the refusal to go back to how life had been before. The reforms were aimed at preventing revolution that threatened the very survival of the bosses’ rotten capitalist system. In former colonial countries like Sri Lanka and Malaysia it was the fear of revolt from those who had fought for independence and wanted to go further in attacking the new comprodore capitalist class. Reforms were introduced in order to stave off revolution and socialism.
National health services and public education systems are not just a nice measure implemented by enlightened governments. They are a way of ensuring that the bosses in industry have a constant supply of labour which is healthy and also skilled in order to maintain their profit-driven system.
However, in many ex-colonial countries, only a minimal health service exists. Across the world millions of women and children die of preventable illnesses and during pregnancy and childbirth.
Over the years in many developed capitalist economies, public services which have eased the burden of working class women in relation to child care and other ‘domestic’ responsibilities. Now, the clock is being turned back. Even the basic provisions of state health and education systems are under threat in both developed and underdeveloped economies.
In Europe and the US, especially since the 2008 crisis of the bosses’ system, these services have been undermined by austerity policies. Not only are working class women being made to pay for the crisis which is not of their making in terms of reverses in social services and health provision; but it is predominantly women who work in these sectors and they are the ones whose jobs – part-time and full-time – are cut, forcing them back into the home on much reduced incomes.
Working class and poor women are, as always, to the fore in movements against these reverses. It is they who suffer most from the lack of decent homes to raise their families. It is also women who are often the most vociferous against cuts to the health service, old people’s homes and nurseries. They demand shelter for those who seek refuge from violence in the home. It is literally a matter of life and death.
Socialists who are fighting for a different, class-free world cannot say “Hold on!”. In the North of England, a campaign against cuts to domestic violence services called ‘Women’s Lives Matter’ quite rightly has the slogan: ‘Women cannot wait!’ and demands “No cuts!”. Socialists are fighting against austerity as well as violence against women and the sexist attitudes and behaviour that capitalism perpetuates throughout society.
But, to achieve lasting reforms, all of these issues require the active involvement of workers and their organisations – above all the trade unions. We saw how, in the past, socialists fought for and won the support of trade unions for campaigns against domestic violence and for shelter and assistance for all those affected by it. Today, drastic cuts in services, dictated by bosses’ governments, have been carried out by local authorities of all colours. A trade union socialist fight-back is vital!
Action on International Women’s Day
Members of our International – the CWI – have succeeded in reviving the tradition of striking on 8 March. In the Spanish state last year, at the initiative of the Sindicato de Estudiantes and Libras y Combativas, the socialist feminist platform of the CWI in Spain, over two million students and workers walked out to protest against the horrific levels of violence against women accepted by both church and (Francoist) state. (Again, on 14 November last year, more than 1.5 million students participated in strikes and demonstrations against sexism in schools and in the legal system.) This year, with even more determination, they will be striking and demonstrating on March 8th.
In Belgium also there will be walkouts from work and tens of thousands of women in Argentina and Italy will be stopping work and demonstrating under the slogan ‘Non Una di Meno’. Likewise in Brazil against the newly elected, openly sexist Bolsonaro, who turns his back on the vile murders of women, gay and trans campaigners and aims to reverse hard-won and vitally needed abortion rights.
In the US, International Women’s Day marches will no doubt be fuelled by Donald Trump’s world-renowned misogyny. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a supreme court judge created outrage not only because of his notorious sexual predatory but because of his attacks on workers and his known intention of reversing advances in abortion rights made through hard-fought campaigns.
There will be walkouts in Southern Ireland where one year ago the campaign to repeal the law forbidding abortion was nearing its historic victory which led to the legal right of all women to a termination during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The pressure is now on for that same right to be available in the North. In Poland the struggle continues to reverse swingeing cuts in abortion rights and in Norway, where they are also now threatened, protests will no doubt take place this Friday.
In the coming days, socialistworld will carry reports of this year’s action and demonstrations around the world, celebrating the International women’s day and stepping up the fight for international socialism.
Build a workers party – mass struggle for a SOCIALIST budget
We support the Working Class Summit-organised budget march. It is taking place in Cape Town tomorrow (20 February). We call on all trade unions and working class community, youth and student organisations to support it. The working class must build unity in struggle!
There is a new finance minister. But the working class and poor have no illusions about what Tito Mboweni will announce in the budget. On behalf of the ANC government, and behind it the capitalist class, we will get a stepping-up of the offensive against the working class that Ramaphosa has already begun. Ramaphosa, announced a “new dawn”. But Mboweni’s mini-budget in October last year fired the first shots in the sharpening class war: a VAT increase; sugar tax and increased fuel levy. Since then, tax revenue, including corporate tax collections have fallen. The budget deficit and government debt have increased. The bill will be presented to the working class. The bosses are screaming for 30,000 retrenchments in the public sector and Eskom whilst continuing retrenchments in the private sector. To weaken working class resistance Ramaphosa has also crippled the right to strike. The lines of class war are clearly drawn. Unemployment, poverty and inequality are here to stay as long as the running of society is left in the hands of the bosses and their politicians.
But it is not only the ANC that is incapable of offering an alternative. An election may only be months away but no government based on the existing parties in parliament, in any combination, coalition or otherwise, can make a real difference to the lives of working class people. That is because none of these parties has a programme to break with the capitalist profit system or a perspective for organising mass struggle to replace it with socialism. The already massive abstention rates in elections – more than 11 million people chose not to vote in 2014 – shows working class people understand that capitalist politics offers them nothing.
We support demands to raise taxes on the rich and big business. But this alone is not enough. What the working class does not own it can never really control. If the bosses are left in charge they will always find ways to sabotage anything that hurts their interests. We therefore raise the call for a socialist budget built on the foundation of nationalisation under workers’ democratic control of the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses. This is the only way to release the wealth needed and begin to develop a democratically planned economy capable of ending unemployment and winning a living wage, decent working conditions and permanent jobs, high quality and affordable housing and efficient and reliable services.
But the bosses will never just give this to us. We will need to organise and struggle for it. The trade union movement needs to take the lead by building co-ordinated campaigns of rolling mass action on all issues facing the working class. In the workplaces especially, this means a struggle against ALL retrenchments and for a living wage of R12,500. Wherever union members and shop stewards are blocked by corrupt or conservative leaders they should set up industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite the workers of all federations, unions, and those not yet members of unions, in campaigns of rolling mass action. In non-complying workplaces and industries workers should enforce compliance through occupations that demand nationalisation under workers control. The Saftu-organised Section 77 strike at the end of March should be a springboard for this militant programme.
Both Saftu and the Working Class Summit have passed important resolutions in favour of creating a workers party that first and foremost unites the struggles of workers and communities. The need for the working class to win political power needs to be posed clearly and placed at the forefront of all working class struggle. Forward to a socialist mass workers party! Forward to socialism!
Venezuela: For mass mobilization of workers to build real socialism and put an end to corrupt bureaucracy!
by Executive Committee of Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Venezuela)
The new leader of the Venezuelan right and far right, Juan Guaidó, (recently elected president of the counterrevolutionary national Assembly) has proclaimed himself President. He called on his supporters to take to the streets to force through the down fall of Nicolás Maduro’s government. Immediately, the most reactionary governments in Latin America and the world, with far-right Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil) and Donald Trump (USA) at the head, have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s “only legitimate president”.
A coup d’état planned by imperialism and the Venezuelan and international right
Wielding all kinds of threats, the US Secretary of State (and former director of the CIA), Mike Pompeo, has demanded that the Maduro government resign immediately. “We have all the options on the table” said Trump. The Venezuelan ultra-right leader, also announced on television that “we are very close to the moment for which we fought for years” and told Maduro to resign “if he wants to save his life”. Latin American governments that stand out for their reactionary and antisocial policies and their servility to Washington enthusiastically support the coup while cynically claiming to stand “for democracy.” You only have to see who leads this ‘Holy Alliance’ to understand what is at stake: the Colombian president Duque (linked to Urribe narcoparamilitarismo), the Ecuadorian President Moreno (The Judas of the Ecuadorian left) President Macri (responsible for the brutal cuts that have provoked the Argentine people to rise up on their feet and fight) or the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (organizer of an electoral fraud with the support of the White House last year and responsible for the repression and murder of dozens of protesters). As is to be expected applauding enthusiastically from the other side of the Atlantic are the European right and far right in Spain with Pablo Casado from the PP, Albert Rivera (Cuidadanos) and the fascistic elements of Vox in the front line.
Guaidó and the Venezuelan right are trying to take advantage of the desperation and indignation felt by the Venezuelan people in the face of the economic and social collapse that the country suffers. GDP and living standards have fallen by 50% in the last four years and the situation has only worsened with price increases of up to 1000% since the beginning of this year.
As we write these lines, tens of thousands of people in different parts of Venezuela have responded to the call of Guaidó not to leave the streets until Maduro resigns or the military takes him down, copying the script of the failed right-wing coup against Chavez in April 2002. On the other hand, Government supporters who had gathered in the Plaza O’Leary of Caracas and other central points of the big cities have been called upon by Diosdado Cabello, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), to go to the Miraflores Palace, as happened in 2002, and keep a vigil to defend it and Maduro from a possible opposition assault.
The pacts of the government with the capitalists open the way to the reaction
The main difference of this coup with that perpetrated against Chávez in 2002 is that the parasitic, corrupt and reactionary Venezuelan right is managing to mobilize not only young university students, professionals and small owners belonging to the middle classes, as happened during the violent guarimba that caused more than 100 deaths between March and July 2017. On this occasion, significant sectors of the youth, unemployed, and even workers, desperate because of the economic situation and the brutal price increases, are marching from poor neighborhoods called onto the street by the right and the extreme right.
Since August 2018, when the government of Maduro applied the so-called Economic Reactivation Plan and devalued the bolivar by establishing a new currency, the Sovereign Bolivar (60 BS equal to 1 dollar), hyperinflation – which was already out of control – has reach devastating levels. Before the start of this latest crisis, the dollar was exchanged for 3,000 sovereign bolivars! Some analysts forecast six or seven-digit inflation for this year.
A simple consultation in a private clinic, something to which not only the middle layers but also many workers are forced to have because of the collapse of the public health service, has soared in price in a few days from 2,000 to 15,000 BS. The state company mobile phone company Movilnet has raised its lowest rates from 169 to 1,300 Bs! While accepting these increases, or even applying them in services and products that depend on public companies, the governments’ only response was a “triumphalist”, a new salary increase of 400% ( from 4,500 BS to 18,000 Bs per month). That is worth barely $ 6, completely insufficient to deal with the rise in basic commodity prices.
The promised wage increases, that hyperinflation eats before being they are applied, together with the triumphalist and even contemptuous tone of the leadership and the PSUV bureaucracy against those who protest, the recourse to repression against many workers who have staged defensive strikes in recent months, together with the fact that most of the bureaucrats who wear the red flannel live with all kinds of privileges and material conditions similar to that of the capitalist class, has only intensified the rage of people. On this objective basis, the right has regained the initiative and launched this new assault for power.
But the victory of the right wing reactionary forces will not solve the problems of the working people. On the contrary! The objective of the imperialists who are pulling the strings behind Guaidó is to force an intervention by senior military officers or at least of a significant layer of them to overthrow Maduro and give power to the right. For years, Maduro has tried to stay in government by giving more and more concessions, economic power and weight in the government to the military high command. This has contributed to an increase in corruption and provoked unrest amongst workers and the people. However, it will not guarantee the loyalty of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to Maduro.
During its previous offensive to take power in 2017, the Venezuelan right had already managed to open a breach in the state apparatus with the support of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz and the resignation of some senior military officials. Then, a key factor for the military leadership, was that the right wing opposition strategy was not enabling them to secure the mass mobilizations they hoped for and they did not spread from the urban middle class to the working class and poor neighborhood’s. In addition, the terrorist actions of the fascist gangs convinced hundreds of thousands of workers, who were very dissatisfied with the government’s policies, to give the PSUV and its National Constituent Assembly (ANC) a last chance. But now the situation has undergone a qualitative transformation.
The PSUV bureaucracy does not defend socialism
The media of the ruling class and international world reaction present the events in Venezuela as the failure of socialism. In Venezuela itself, with the inestimable help of the bureaucratic leaders of the PSUV – who classify this disaster and its policy of pacts with businessmen of a “transition to socialism” -, the right uses the economic collapse to sow confusion amongst the masses, undermine its morale and discredit the idea of socialism, workers control and in general everything that smells left or revolution.
In fact, the program applied by Maduro and the PSUV leaders are light years away from socialism and what millions of people expected in 2013, when they voted to keep the social plans and reforms carried out by Chávez in trying to respond to the aspirations of the working class and the most oppressed sectors of the people.
Since then, Maduro and his collaborators, also inspired by the Chinese government and a whole legion of Stalinist “fellow travelers”, have tried to convince the Venezuelan and international ruling class that they could manage the worst crisis in the history of Venezuelan capitalism with less social upheavals than the right wing would mean. During recent months they have approved very hard social cuts and wage reductions, the dismissals of thousands of workers from public companies by trying to cover them up with a fraudulent and impotent “revolutionary mysticism”. Through these policies they have only managed to erode in record time the massive social support that the PSUV had. Now the same bourgeoisie and businessmen who benefited from the government aid and signed agreements with the regime are manoeuvring with imperialism to regain direct control of government and state power. This crisis is the result of the bureaucratic “socialist” model of a caste of demoralized and corrupt officials, military and politicians, who have risen totally above the living conditions of the people who have been fighting to maintain their privileges. Their actions have undermined the conquests of the Bolivarian revolution and allowed the reaction to advance.
Organize action committees in each neighborhood and each factory. Build a united front of the left to defeat the coup and end capitalism and the bureaucracy
Guaidó is like a wolf in a lambs clothing and speaks of a government for all and reconciliation. Yet if this right-wing reactionary and the forces that support him come to power, the result will be a nightmare for millions of workers and peasants, who are suffering from the social and economic crisis. Their political and economic agenda can only be applied with even more massive layoffs, brutally cutting social spending and repressing unions, social movements, and activists on the left, on an even more brutal and bloody scale than they do in the countries of their sponsors – Duque, Bolsonaro and Macri .
The first task of the working class and the politically conscious and combative people of Venezuela is to organize resistance against the coup. We must begin by denouncing the true objectives of Guaidó, the right wing and imperialism. We have to organize assemblies in each company and place of work to discuss what our needs and demands are and how the economic plans and policies of the right mean a mortal danger. It is urgent to create action committees in defense of the rights of workers and the people in each work center and each neighborhood, defending a genuinely socialist class program, which proposes the expropriation of the big private monopolies and banking to end the hyperinflation and corruption, the abolition of the privileges of the bureaucracy and that strives to transfer real power to the hands of the working class and the oppressed. We must organize massive mobilizations and the legitimate self-defense of the people against the violence of the right.
The experience of recent years shows that we cannot have the slightest confidence in the Maduro government, the bureaucracy or the senior army officers if we want to prevent the victory of the reaction. It has been Maduro’s policies, his bureaucracy and his corruption that have opened the way to the right wing and the coup. The only way to avoid a tragic result for the working class and the people of Venezuela is to raise a united front of the left, completely independent of those who have caused this disaster, to openly fight for the conquest of power to establish a democratic administration of the workers’ and exploited people, based on direct democracy in all aspects of social and economic life, that advance an economic plan, through the expropriation of capitalists and the management and democratic control of workers, to create employment and increase production and the social conquests won previously.
There is no time to lose. Massive resistance must be waged against the blow of reaction and imperialism with mass mobilization from below, raising a revolutionary socialist and internationalist program. The peoples and the working class of the whole world, beginning with those of Latin America, have the duty to reject the bloodbath that the rightwing coup and its international mentors are preparing. Only the working people can save the people!
This morning WASP member Goodenough Chimurenga was able to send us an eyewitness report of the mass movement that rocked Zimbabwe last week.
Good morning comrades. I’m sorry that I have not been a reliable correspondent on the events obtaining here. My useless phone and the internet blockade have not helped matters at all. I shall try to give you a picture of what’s taking place.
It has been quite difficult to judge the accuracy of certain social media reports all across the country mostly because of the complete media blackout imposed by the regime and it’s complete control of the internal press.
But I think it is safe to characterize last week’s events as overwhelmingly historical, particularly the first three days where we saw what can be easily be described as a total, all-be-it momentary, seizure of power by the masses through the shutdown/general strike organised by ZCTU [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions]. The state was rendered functionless and redundant by the total withdrawal of labour by workers both in the public and private sectors, informal workers, which I think was mostly made possible by the taxi drivers who were angered by the fuel hike.
Even riot police could not report for duty under the circumstances. Remember the ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] often the chief instrument of state repression has basically been demoted after Mugabe’s ouster. They seem to be holding some sort of a grudge against the Mnangagwa regime.
The wave of protests ignited by the fuel hike took place in the townships as opposed to the city centres where they usually take place. The angry masses in Harare and Bulawayo went after every symbol of the state they could get hold of – from the Choppies Supermarket chain where Mnangagwa holds a stake, to the police stations, and every car that seemed to be disobeying the shutdown.
Some rank-and-file military personnel in uniform in Harare were seen participating in the looting of Choppies as well as enforcing the shutdown by blocking and beating people who disobeyed it, at least for the first 3 days of last week.
Of course the regime reacted violently and brutally by unleashing the military on innocent civilians and activists in the townships but with much less confidence in it’s own capacity this time and a little too late than usual.
Opposition parties remain oblivious to the revolutionary moment before them and completely incapable of providing the leadership the angry masses so desperately need.
by CWI reporters
A three day general strike in Zimbabwe was set in motion on 14 January in response to the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and local activists the strike was in protest against the 150 per cent fuel price hike announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 12 January.
The national shut-down was overwhelmingly implemented by the workers, unemployed and self-employed – the vast majority of Zimbabweans. In the capital, Harare, and second largest city Bulawayo, people, including large numbers of youth, took to the streets demonstrating. Elsewhere people stayed home as a way of expressing their grievances.
The police met the demonstrations with live bullets and tear gas. Two days into the general strike, five people have reportedly been shot dead by the police, and several others wounded. A police station in Harare was torched as demonstrators reacted against the heavy-handed repression. Some demonstrators set up barricades blocking the roads into the cities. Media also reports some looting. The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reports that its head office was looted and set alight. Also cars of the ruling ZANU-PF were targeted.
Now priced at US$3.31 per litre (diesel to US$3.11), fuel in Zimbabwe is now the most expensive in the world in a country where only 11% of the 5.4m economically active population are employed in the formal sector, and 72% live below the World Bank poverty line of US$1.90 per day. The working class and poor in Zimbabwe had already been hard hit by accelerating price hikes, shortage of hard cash, fuel and basic goods including medicine under the new finance minister’s mockingly titled “Austerity for Prosperity” budget under which soldiers’ pensionable age was raised to 70 from 65 years of age.
According to the announcement by the government, big businesses will be compensated for the increase through tax rebates. This on its own is an attack on the workers, the poor, the unemployed and self-employed – the bosses’ government is trying to force the workers and poor to pay for the economic crisis. Mnangagwa has also announced wholesale privatisation of publicly own corporations since he took power.
The national shut-down comes on the heels of the doctors` strike, which was just called-off after over a month of struggle for, amongst others, outstanding wages and a massive increase in health care spending. A teachers strike is also planned for later this month. A group of teachers recently marched from Bulawayo to Harare (430 kilometres!) to present their grievances, including among other things poor salaries amid increased prices in basic goods, to the government. Public sector workers also served a strike notice on the Public Service Commission on 8 January after negotiations between the government and workers failed.
In other words, the general strike takes place as part of a ferment across workplaces and communities. Not even six months after he was elected, president Mnangagwa (who in November 2018 was involved in the coup that unseated his old party comrade Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power) may be facing a brewing rebellion. The elections were in reality called to legitimise the regime Mnangagwa’s military installed following the thinly disguised coup that ousted Mugabe.
As the Saturday Big Read (SBR) (16/01/2019) points out: “On August 1 2018, the same military was deployed into the streets of Harare. The operation left six dead and 35 others wounded. Shot down in cold blood. A commission of inquiry was set up. It performed a shoddy white-washing job. No-one has been held accountable. Not even a single word of apology.”
Just six months later, the SBR reports that “The State has now resorted to extraordinary measures, without even declaring a State of Emergency. They include the following:
- military deployment
- detention of civilians
- shootings, beatings, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. People have been killed in cold blood
- door-to-door search & seizure of individuals and abductions
- shutdown of the Internet and social media to prevent free flow of information. There is an information blackout
- Propaganda, blaming the opposition and civil society groups for what are plain opposition protests”
Despite pointing to serious evidence of rigging before the elections – including the refusal by the Independent Elections Commissions to release the voters roll for inspection by the opposition critical for their credibility – the MDC participated in what were in effect fraudulent elections, overwhelmed by its ambition for office.
Although the MDC has expressed solidarity with the strike, its pre-occupation has been to deny responsibility for them. Clearly taken by surprise by these developments, instead of placing itself at the head of these massive protests, it is using them instead to make a call for regional intervention and for Mnangagwa to return from his overseas trip for a ‘national dialogue’.
The CWI gives full support to the strike and calls on workers, youth and community activists to use the strike to build organising committees in workplaces, schools, townships and villages to discuss the programme of action and the alternative to the increasingly nightmarish situation. The ZCTU rank-and-file must campaign for the unions to break any lingering ties with the MDC and campaign for the creation of a workers party.
The only way out of the Zimbabwe crisis, is to struggle for a socialist Zimbabwe, a socialist Africa and a socialist world, where the resources of society are taken into genuine public ownership, managed and controlled democratically by workers and communities, and production is planned for the needs of all, not the profits of big business, the multinationals and the politically connected elite.
[whohit]POST – Zimbabwe: general strike in response to price hikes[/whohit]
Socialists raise banner of struggle
General elections are scheduled for Nigeria in February and March. February 16 is due to see the election of the president and National Assembly, while on March 2 governors and state assemblies in most of Nigeria’s 36 states, alongside local elections in the federal capital Abuja, are scheduled.
These elections will see the recently registered Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) stand for the first time in general elections.
The SPN argues that a large section of Nigerians went into 2015 elections with huge illusions in Buhari and APC’s ability to resolve the woe of the previous 16 years of the PDP government. But the last 3 years have seen a mass disillusionment in the Buhari government as the conditions of the masses have become worse. The question the masses have not been able to answer is why the country is in this mess at all levels despite being blessed with huge human and material resources? The crisis of Nigeria is the crisis of capitalism in a neo-colonial country. Capitalism has to be defeated before Nigeria can realize its full potentials and the human and material resources are used for the benefit all, and not for the insatiable greed of a few. This explanation has to be popularized amongst the masses.
However, this does not mean that the masses can only throw hands up helplessly just hoping for a better time or messiah or falling into despair. The working class people and the masses have to struggle to force the inherently anti-poor pro-capitalist ruling elite/politicians grant some concessions that may improve their conditions even it is temporarily. This has been demonstrated by the working people and youth in various struggles for improvement such as electricity campaign, anti-fuel price hike, anti-school fee hike, minimum wage, etc. But concessions can be taken away or undermined, a fundamental solution is necessary. So, what is missing is a mass party that will actively identify with these struggles and help the working people to link them with overall need to take over political power with a view to ultimately defeat capitalism.
It is against this background that the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) is intervening in the 2019 general elections. The party was formed in 2012 by socialist, trade union and youth activists including members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). But the party only became officially recognized and able to stand in elections, following a court order in January 2018, after over three years of both legal and political struggles. The electoral commission (INEC) had originally refused to register the party despite it having fulfilled all constitutional, legal and financial requirements.
Electoral period predisposes the masses to a reflection over how they are being governed and how the economy is run. We want to use the election to open dialogue with wider layers of the oppressed people on how government and economy should be run. In other words, we are reaching out to the masses with socialist alternative programme including immediate demands for improvement in both working and living conditions.
Below is a report, taken from the DSM’s website of the enthusiastic launch of the SPN’s campaign in Ifo, Ogun State, an area which borders on Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital.
There was an excited response as the flag-off rally of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) campaign to elect Comrade Hassan Taiwo Soweto as member, Ogun State House of Assembly, Ifo 2 constituency, took place on Saturday 15 December 2018. It started with a symposium at the Olambe Town hall, with about 120 persons in attendance. The symposium started with solidarity songs where the members of the party sang enthusiastically, before the candidate came out to give his manifestoes to an inspiring applause by the audience.
Soweto is running on a manifesto to go into the House of Assembly to build a popular movement to fight for development for neglected communities in the constituency in the areas of road infrastructure, electricity, public education, healthcare and jobs. He will stand against all anti-poor policies and serve as a bold voice for workers, youth and the masses. He will continue to live in the constituency and he will not collect more than the salary and allowances of a skilled civil servant.
Speaking after him was a Chief of the Olaogun town, Chief Bamigbose, who informed the audience of the fact that the constituency is larger than 6 local governments in the state, yet it is the most underfunded. There are hardly any motorable roads while public schools and health facilities are either non-existent or inadequate. He stressed the need for a vibrant representation for the constituency, and the need for the members of the constituency to elect Soweto with a protest vote.
The National Secretary of the party, Comrade Chinedu Bosah, also came out to speak and expressed how inspiring the Ifo contest was for the National Secretariat and the whole party. The Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the Party, Comrade Rufus Olusesan, lamented that Nigerians can no longer beg around to feed themselves, and concluded that ‘enough is enough of capitalist politicians’. A member of the Campaign for a Workers’ and Youths’ Alternative (CWA), Falilat Jimoh, came with solidarity greetings from the CWA, drawing the similarities between the CWA and SPN, and stressed the fact that a victory for Soweto would be an exemplary radical alternative.
Comrade Ayo Arogundade echoed that the alternatives of a politician on minimum wage, and living in the community are examples that the SPN is set to lay with the contest. The Chairlady of the Tailors’ Association in the area, Mrs. Olaoyenikan, encouraged the people to vote for a grassroots activist. A local elder in the area, Elder Jegede, narrated how he was inspired by the speech of the candidate at an earlier date at a meeting of the Community Development Council, and lamented how youths were being used by bourgeois politicians but is happy that the youths are now ready to take their future into their hands. A representative of the Baale (Monarch) of Olambe town in his speech described the candidate as a David that will definitely overcome the Goliath he is confronting. Mamakofoshi, the women’s leader of the party, expressed her happiness that an activist is contesting, and asked the people to vote out corrupt politicians.
An election fundraising was launched at the symposium which raised in pledges and cash a total sum of N45,000 with about N11,500 raised on the spot. The rally started immediately after the symposium with a convoy of three cars, a bus, about five motorcycles (okada) and a van, which were all filled up with many walking almost the entire length of the distance covered. Inspiring responses of the people about the need for good roads and exemplary endorsements by those we engaged and agitated with were all the major highlights of the rally, asides the poster pasting and the leafleting.
For more than a month now, since 17 November, France has seen an apparently unstoppable revolt from below. A massive tide of very visible protest has swept the country, initially against a rise in the tax on diesel, but rapidly becoming a revolt of the oppressed against ‘the president of the rich’, Emmanuel Macron.
On the evening of 10 December, after a day of talks between business and union leaders with the government, this most unpopular of presidents broke his silence to address the nation and accepted he had “upset” people. Confirming the reversal of the fuel tax rise, he outlined a €10 billion package which included a €100 rise in the minimum wage, a revision of levies on pensions, a decrease in taxation on overtime pay and encouragement for better-off bosses to pay a little Christmas bonus to their workers if they could afford it!
The top crocodile, Macron, shed some tears, but there was no talk of reversing the massive tax breaks given to the super-rich from the earliest days of his still short ‘reign’. A gilets jaunes representative, Laetitia Dewalle, invited for comment by the main state TV channel France2, exclaimed: “Of course it’s not enough!” She added, “If he’s been absent from view for ten days, it was obviously to take acting lessons.” “Why should I listen to him?” said someone watching the broadcast. “He doesn’t listen to us!”
The next day, Tuesday 11 December, has seen a new wave of protests, including fierce battles between police and protesters, with large numbers of students mobilised. A number of scenarios could open up.
Together with his La Republique en Marche party, Macron has only been in power for 18 months. Variously styling himself as Jupiter or Napoleon, it is his resignation that every demonstration has been demanding. Some protesters are veterans of the month of revolution in 1968, when the fate of General de Gaulle hung in the balance. Others refer, light-heartedly, to the way Louis XVl met his end in the revolution of 1789!
This is not yet a revolution, but a very determined uprising of the neglected and deprived sections of the population, especially in the countryside. But more and more, it has found an echo amongst layers of France’s heroic working class.
The ‘invisible’ have become visible with the yellow ‘Hi Viz’ jackets – the uniform of the movement. Their good-natured blockades of the roads and toll booths across the country have become a novel, now well-established, feature of this revolt.
The diesel tax rise – a cheap way for this government to raise money and look as if it cares for the environment – was the last straw for so many in French society, who have seen their living standards pushed down to poverty levels. As the protests, which include people of all political persuasions and none, have grown, so have the demands. By the fourth week they were reported to have a charter of “suggestions to end this crisis”.
Under ‘Economy/work’, it speaks of a 40% increase in the minimum wage, pensions and benefits, of “mass hirings” in the state sector, of 5 million new homes.
Under the heading ‘Politics’, France should leave the EU, reverse all privatisations, remove all ‘useless’ speed cameras (!), reform education. Under ‘Health/Environment’ it demands a 10 year guarantee to end planned obsolence, ban GM foods, carcinogenic pesticides, monoculture and reindustrialise France to reduce pollution.
Under ‘Geopolitics’ they want to pull France out of NATO and foreign wars and stop plundering Francophone Africa…generally have laws and access to the law that covers everyone and everything!
Who is involved?
The protests have been joined by workers on the blockades and on the demonstrations in Paris and around the country. It has inspired workers and young people across the border in Belgium and elsewhere, who have had enough of austerity and pro-rich governments. The movement, especially if it gains a major victory, could well spread across Europe and beyond. Many workers and young people are envious of the French people’s penchant for protesting with great determination. The Egyptian dictator, General Sisi, has banned the sale of yellow, hi-viz jackets and even Mosul in Iraq is reported to have its own small gilets jaunes protest.
Youth enter the fray
On 10 December, a new impetus was given to the ‘uprising’ when students at 100 schools set up blockades and joined the struggle. Students are angry at the so-called ‘reforms, which deny them unfettered access to university. Their entry onto the scene was undoubtedly a weighty factor behind the concessions made by Prime Minister, Phillippe, announced on Tuesday 11 December.
Then the shocking scenes went viral of school students on their knees, with their hands on their heads or tied behind them, and with fully armed police towering over them. This aroused a wave of anger beyond the borders of France. On many of the demonstrations, last Saturday, a theatrical re-enactment of armed police versus children was played out in the squares of the country’s towns and cities.
At first, the gilets jaunes were mostly impoverished middle and poor layers of the population, far from and alienated by what they saw as the pampered bourgeois of the capital city. When the Saturday demonstrations in Paris ended with violent battles and the torching of some symbols of luxurious living, demonstrators commented to the media: “We wouldn’t take this kind of action ourselves but we like the results!”
The plebeian nature of the original layers involved in this movement finds expression in their hostility to the complacently rich – the ‘BoBo’s or ‘bourgeois bohemians’ of Paris, and elsewhere – that they are alienated from. The president, who is seen as representing these people rather than those of the majority of the population, has sunk lower in the opinion polls than any previous president. He has less support than the 24% of the electorate which supported him in the first round of the 2017 presidential election.
His party is fractured, his government has already ‘lost’ seven ministers. He may sacrifice his prime minister, as other presidents have done in the face of revolt against their rule. Macron is desperate that it is not his own head that rolls.
Features of a revolution
The brutal use of the forces of the state against demonstrators, in many places, has only increased the determination of the protesters for a fight to the finish. The ruling layer in society is at sixes and sevens on how to proceed. The middle layers are already involved. The forces of the state have been overstretched and are ripe for defection.
What is missing is a mass mobilisation of the most powerful force in society for change – the working class in the factories, the depots, the stations, the offices, the schools and the hospitals. All these workers have already expressed grievances against their bosses or the government or both. Many have been involved in determined but scattered strikes and struggles.
The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) bases itself on the tenet that the only force that can lead to a decisive and lasting victory over the capitalist system is the working class, on the move and with a clear, revolutionary leadership. As yet these factors are missing.
The largest trade union federation in France – the CGT – belatedly called for a build-up of strikes and demonstrations from this Friday coming, and a general strike could develop, even without a call from the top, as it did in 1968. Alternatively it could be limited action but successful, like the mobilisation of two million public sector strikers on the streets in 1995, which defeated the pension ‘reforms’ of Jacques Chirac (and saw the resignation of his prime minister, Alain Juppe). The strategy (on either side) could be to allow a breathing space over the Christmas period before another round of battles in the New Year.
Whatever happens, it is clear that this battle with Macron and his rich backers is not over.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France Insoumise (France Unbowed), and the left candidate who got over 7 million votes in the first round of the last presidential election, called for protesters to converge in Paris and other cities for ‘Act 5’ of the Saturday demonstrations. He speaks of a continuation of the Citizens’ Revolution but makes no concrete proposals for organising a movement to carry it through.
Programme and leadership
The forces of the CWI in France – Gauche Revolutionnaire – and supporters from other countries, are active participants in the movement – on the blockades, in the lycees and on the mass protests. They have a special issue of their paper – ‘Egalite’ – which calls for a one-day general strike, as the next step to mobilise to bring down the hated government.
The appetite has undoubtedly increased with the eating in an inspiring movement. It is diffuse, but the nature of the demands clearly reflect the anger that exists in society at searing levels of inequality – vastly increased wealth for the tops and ever-increasing sacrifices for the working class and poor.
A feature of this movement has been widespread comments of previously comfortable layers of the middle class now forced into the ranks of the working class. Marx and Engels explained exactly this process that takes place during crises of capitalism in the ‘Communist Manifesto’ first published 170 years ago. Similar moods and sentiments lie behind much of the growth of populism of both the right and left variety in other countries, along with the still surviving post-Stalinist hostility towards organising parties, the concerns of top-down policy-making. It means the movement is diffuse. Being leaderless is an advantage, in some respects, but a hindrance to democratic decision-making and development of cadres and leadership.
The far right figure, Marine le Pen, blamed globalisation and immigration for the crisis in French society. Some of the protests originally smacked of these sentiments but such views were crowded out by mood of common struggle against the government.
Now the gilets jaunes is truly a movement of ‘tous ensemble’ (‘everyone together’). The crucial element which can turn this massive cry of rage into a force for transforming society, on socialist lines, is a party that has this as its clear aim – not just in its name, devoid of all meaning, like that of the discredited Socialist Party in France. The Communist Party in France does not have the support of the past, when it was a mass party of the working class. But that also means it cannot play the role it did in 1968 of an enormous brake on the workers’ movement just as it was on the brink of taking power.
One of the features of the present movement is that it appears to have no leaders and so no-one that the government can persuade to call off the action. It has spokespeople, like Benjamin Cauchy, who declares the movement will not be satisfied with crumbs – it wants the baguette.
As socialists, we would say, why not the bakery? Macron may ‘sacrifice’ his prime minister. He may even be forced to resign himself. New elections may be called. But any government which stays in charge of an economy where the commanding heights are largely in the hands of private owners will return, again and again, to make the workers and poor pay for their recurrent crises.
‘Now that you feel your power’, we would say, ‘Why not link up representative elected committees on a local, regional and national level and make a bid to get rid of the government?’ Jean-Luc Melenchon has called for a Constituent Assembly. Why not make it an assembly of revolt, with democratically elected representatives, at all levels, including from assemblies in the workplaces , offices, schools, local neighbourhoods, and factories?
Such mass committees of struggle could grow into a government of workers and poor people. It can have as its programme all the demands of the movement and the taking into public ownership of the big banks and top companies – the ‘CAC 40’ – which form the basis of French capitalism (and where the friends of Macron get their easy wealth from). The watchwords of the revolution of 1789 – ‘Equality, Liberty and Fraternity’ – can only be secured on the basis of socialism!
As the special edition of Gauche Revolutionnaire’s newspaper puts it, the French movement needs to link the immediate struggle for a minimum wage, the re-instatement of the taxes on the super-rich, an injection of billions into education, health and the environment with the struggle for socialism. This entails striving for a society that is “planned democratically and ecologically to satisfy the needs of all and not the profits of the handful of super-rich…a truly democratic, fraternal and tolerant society, free of wars, poverty, racism and sexism”.
by Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee
This article appears in the new issue of Izwi Labasebenzi (Issue No. 2 of 2018).
The EFF has turned five, but it finds itself at sixes and sevens. The VBS corruption revelations may be shocking, but they are no aberration. This is but the latest example of the EFF’s mounting contradictions. The timing could not have been more embarrassing. Having played a major role in determining Zuma’s fate, the EFF was still celebrating their latest victory – the resignation of Nhanhla Nene.
The EFF has vigorously denied wrongdoing, threatening legal action against the SA Reserve Bank. But it is possible that second-in-command, deputy president Floyd Shivambu, could be prosecuted. Claims have since followed that Julius Malema, (through his cousin) and the EFF itself may have benefited. The EFF refused to form coalitions with the ANC because it is corrupt. Yet it entered coalitions for self-enrichment with ANC leaders, turning VBS into an institution for theft from the poor.
The EFF leadership has, unsurprisingly proclaimed its 16 October VBS press conference a success. With the investigations still ongoing and prosecutions still awaited – the evidence is not yet in the public domain. The EFF is thus able to claim it is innocent till proven guilty. But this is a fig leaf to hide its naked embarrassment.
The evidence of looting is so overwhelming that the EFF leadership had no alternative but to echo public sentiment, pretending to share in the revulsion, condemning corruption and calling for prosecutions. Malema even gave an undertaking to act against Shivambu if he were found guilty.
To make matters worse for the EFF, it is suspected that behind its so-far unsuccessful no-confidence motions against Tshwane Mayor, Solly Msimang, are attempts to cover-up corruption amounting to R12 million involving a Tshwane City Manager – an alleged EFF member.
Attempting to rescue its “radical economic transformation” credentials, the EFF has called for VBS to be saved, because it is a “black bank.” This serves merely to expose the EFF’s real class ambitions – self-enrichment. It stands firmly beside the ANC, DA, and the radical transformation rabble – Black First Land First, Transform SA, Mazibuye African Congress etc. – to get rich quickly.
The EFF is approaching a cross-road in its political fortunes. Severe damage to its dishonestly constructed anti-corruption image faces it. Simultaneously cracks are widening in the party itself. Chaos erupted at two of its provincial assemblies. In at least one, Malema’s bodyguards fired live rounds of ammunition at EFF members storming the fleeing commander-in-chief’s car. They had rebelled against the imposition of his preferred provincial structure candidates. Malema’s North West EFF allies are desperately fending off sexual harassment and victimization allegations. All this has severely dented many EFF members’ confidence.
How did the EFF get here?
The EFF’s political and ideological degeneration is surprising not because it has occurred at all – that was always a given. It is the speed with which it is undressing itself that is striking. The leadership’s fears are for both their personal fate at the hands of the law, as well as its electoral credibility. It is turning up the volume of its racist noise – condemning all whites as thieves, smearing Indians and coloureds as racists – in a desperate attempt to boost its electoral appeal, stalling since 2014. In the 37 by-elections in 2018, it has not increased its 2014 votes, and regressed in most provinces. Its Gauteng growth is small. Only in Limpopo has it increased support more significantly.
The EFF boasted ahead of the 2016 local elections that it expected to control at least one metro and some municipalities. As the capitalist Business Day observed, “Malema predicted 18% (from the 6% in 2014) at the local elections in 2016. It got to 8%, less than 100,000 new votes…. Now he’s projecting 12% in 2019. That’s still well over 1-million new voters he needs. Where will they come from? Not from the DA. And with Zuma gone, not from the ANC. Malema will have to register a whole generation of new voters” (Business Day 29/03/18).
The EFF’s exaggerated expectations were built on a misreading of the 2014 results. Its spectacular 1.3m votes for a party of only 12 months, only matched those of the Congress of the Peoples’ in 2009. This despite the far more favourable conditions in 2014 than those under which Cope contested. The EFF failed to capitalise to its full potential the deep post-Marikana anger of the masses against a deeply divided corruption tainted ANC. This pointed to the limits of its electoral appeal particularly amongst organised workers who have a healthy class suspicion towards a party led by a millionaire who has never worked a day in his life.
In 2016, the EFF could have called for fresh elections after 90 days if an administration was not formed. Instead it installed DA mayors. This rescued the DA, enabling it to claim electoral momentum. It became the DA’s useful idiots – the cheerleaders of its hypocritical propaganda that it runs corruption-free administrations.
The DA/EFF coalitions confirm that the EFF does not take its own anti-capitalist rhetoric seriously. They are a local government dress rehearsal for a national coalition with the ANC in 2019 – an engagement with the monkey in preparation for marriage with the organ grinder.
The EFF since 2016 – a catalogue of betrayals
The EFF’s post-2016 election strategy is driven by two considerations. First, ambition to enter national office in 2019; second, self-preservation to avoid exposure for corruption.
Since 2016 the EFF has:
- Entered into coalitions with DA – a party it denounces as racist agents of “white monopoly capital”.
- Defended Zulu King Zwelithini’s rejection of Expropriation of Land Without Compensation (EWC).The King has subsequently roped-in AfriForum pulling the EFF into an anti-EWC alliance with racists claiming white farmer genocide
- Allied with the House of Traditional Leaders colluding with multinationals exploiting mineral resources at mining communities’ expense
- Through spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s flattering congratulatory birthday tweet to Gatsha Buthelezi, praised the historical role of the IFP leader despite his leading role in the apartheid regime-orchestrated “black-on-black” violence in the 1980s and 1990s
What lies behind the EFF’s anti-Indian racism?
Malema insists that SA’s main problem in SA today is not class but race. But it is the racism in the Indian community that the EFF leadership has singled out. Racism undoubtedly exists in the Indian community. But racism is found in all communities, including Africans, to different degrees. Racist prejudices are rooted in the poverty and social deprivation that continues today beyond apartheid, preserved by the same capitalist system white minority rule served.
For Marxists, it is not only what is said in politics, but by whom and why. The EFF is targeting Treasury Deputy Director Ishmael Monmoniat because he is implementing legislation threatening to expose looting. Accusing him of “undermining African leadership” insults the black director general and his other deputies.
Pravin Gordhan is similarly race-baited for pursuing corruption in state-owned enterprises. The SA Revenue Service “rogue unit” hysteria deflects attention from the investigation into the illicit activities of tobacco outfit, Carnilex, whose director, Adriano Mazzotti, has confessed to corruption, paid the EFF’s IEC registration fee and Malema’s R16 million tax arrears.
EFF attempts to undermine the State Capture Commission members are similarly motivated – the fear of exposure of its links to corruption. Under a new NPA leadership Malema could have his corruption charges reinstated.
How do we answer the EFF’s racist populism?
The first duty of genuine socialists is to promote working class unity of all races around a common platform and programme of action to dismantle the foundations of all prejudice – racial, ethnic, religious, nationalist and gender – the capitalist system.
Such a programme must:
- Lay bare the class divisions within every racial / ethnic / national / religious group showing how the working class in each have more in common with their class brothers and sisters across these boundaries than with the capitalist elite within them
- Explain that these prejudices are fed by working class poverty in each community
- Explain that economic freedom is unattainable under capitalism and requires the socialist transformation of society
- Explain the negotiated settlement aimed to preserve capitalism and open the road for the black bourgeoisie
The EFF does the exact opposite. Having in reality embraced the preservation of capitalism, the EFF is obliged to promote the racial divisions that capitalism has historically relied on with the aim of stopping the working class from uniting and overthrowing it.
The EFF is unlikely to survive action against Shivambu intact. Equally if Malema fails to act, it will damage it even further. Malema is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Those followers hoping against hope the EFF is fundamentally different from the ANC will be more disappointed as it continues taking steps along the path back to the party it came from.
But the EFF’s radical rhetoric does not fool the strategists of capital. Former Business Day editor Peter Bruce warmly welcomed Shivambu’s planned private member’s bill to establish a sovereign wealth fund as marking “an important shift in the EFF’s approach to, and its attitude to, capitalism and the market”. (Business Live 21/05/2018).
The bourgeois is worried Ramaphosa is not up to the job of saving capitalism. Peter Bruce lamented: “Capitalism is our only viable future. But it needs to be bent and shaped to our purposes and I’m not sure he (Ramaphosa) knows how to do it.” (Sunday Times 28/10/18). The ANC may not pass the 50% barrier in 2019. A pro-capitalist alliance of some combination is thus possible. The EFF will be a willing partner in exchange for cabinet positions.
Even if the EFF achieves the 11%-12% of the vote that the latest polls suggest, it is no alternative for the working class. The resolutions of the historic Working Class Summit convened by Saftu in July to form a mass workers party on a socialist programme must be implemented urgently.
Saftu and the Working Class Summit must seize the opportunity!
This article appears as the editorial of the new issue of Izwi Labasebenzi (Issue No. 2 of 2018).
Not since the advent of democracy has the crisis of capitalism and its political parties revealed itself as starkly as it is now. Despite the ANC government’s measures, directed by domestic and international capital, matters are only getting worse. The claims of the stimulus package with no new money and more austerity, the pitiful investment pledges and the job summit promises are all contradicted by reality. Ramaphosa’s budget in effect tipped the economy into recession. Unemployment is now at historic levels edging towards ten million. The bosses are not making any plans to invest or create jobs. Economic growth projections are repeatedly being revised downwards.
The crises in all the major parties – the ANC, DA and increasingly the EFF – are rooted in the reality that capitalism is in a dead end. It must be overthrown. Only the working class has the interest and the capacity to abolish capitalism and lead society towards socialism.
The economic and political crisis underlines the importance of the declarations of the Working Class Summit (WCS) that Saftu convened in July which were endorsed by the federation’s October Central Committee. The summit of 147 working class organisations (see WASP website) adopted a declaration that “a clear majority agreed on a need to build an independent, democratic and revolutionary working-class political party…”. It further agreed that this party must stand for working class power and socialism.
The Saftu Central Committee “…agreed in principle that creation of the working class party is of critical importance…” It emphasised “…that in the current capitalist crises, the only way forward is through building a Workers Party.” We agree and welcome this statement. It reaffirms the necessity for the working class to decisively enter the political battlefield.
Until now, the working class has reacted to the growing economic and political crisis by mass protests on the ground and mass abstention, or tactical voting to punish the ANC, on the political plane. Now, for the first time in the democratic era, the working class has the opportunity to unite its struggles on the ground – in the workplaces, the communities and on the education campuses – and to enter the struggle on the political plane, united, with its own platform and programme of action.
Of crucial importance is Saftu’s and the WCS’s recognition that the primary task is to unite the working class. The creation of a workers party belongs to the entire working class and cannot be the exclusive property of just one section of it. The Summit represented the first steps in assembling the forces capable of uniting the working class in its hundreds of thousands. This is enough to begin.
Party of struggle
Any new party must first and foremost be a party of struggle. The working class is already moving. Workplace strikes and community protests are at record high levels. A new party must connect with these struggles and help to unite them. Both the WCS and Saftu declarations recognise this. It must be this side that is given the overwhelming emphasis in building the new party.
Implicit in the WCS declaration is a recognition of the necessity for a federal structure – one that allows existing working class organisations to affiliate whilst maintaining their own identity, including revolutionary political parties and community organisations. This can allow open and democratic discussions and debates of different working class and revolutionary ideologies. WASP will put forward our views about what the creation of socialism will require and others must do the same.
Federalism does not have to be a ‘once and forever’ principle. But we believe it is a necessary starting point to assure the already existing different political and ideological groupings and community organisations that they are equal participants in a process to create something new together.
Ultimately, it will be the new party’s experience of struggle that will do most to clarify ideas. The new party must be armed with a programme of action on wages, job creation, service delivery and housing, healthcare and education if it is to connect with the mass of working class people.
We believe it is possible to use the upcoming 2019 elections to build momentum for the new party. It does not need to be a ‘finished product’ beforehand. An election campaign can be an act in the creation of the party. Saftu and the WCS organisations are capable of creating an inclusive and democratic process for this. Even a handful of MPs clearly proclaiming for socialism and working class power could electrify the working class. The platform could be used to convene the founding congress of the party with an appeal to every workplace and working class community to send delegates.
Saftu’s follow-up strike demanding a R12,500 minimum wage and against the attacks on the right to strike is planned for the first quarter of 2019 – ahead of the elections must place the creation of a workers party at the centre of that struggle.