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Patriarchy and the Workers Movement

Executive Committee statement

Patriarchy – where it is accepted as ‘normal’ for men to dominate and hold authority over women – is a serious problem throughout South African society. It is visible in the sky-high levels of rape and domestic violence, including the murder of women by their partners, sexual harassment in the workplace and on the street, inequality between men and women in pay, career progression, educational achievements and unequal responsibility in the home for domestic chores and care of the young, old and infirm.

Download this statement as a printable pamphlet here.

A key point for Marxists is that this is not a uniquely ‘South African’ problem. Patriarchy has been central to all class societies throughout history. It remains so across the world today under capitalism. We have recently published a detailed analysis of this in Marxist-Feminism: How it Arms Us to Struggle Against Women’s Oppression.

In WASP we are clear that the struggle against capitalism and the struggle against the oppression of women are two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, all forms of oppression, including sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia etc., trace their origins, and continuation, to the class divisions in society. It is not possible for socialists and class conscious workers to struggle against capitalism without embracing the struggle against the different forms of oppression it creates, including patriarchy and the oppression of women. And then, not just in words, but in deeds too. The new women’s movements that have emerged across the world, including #TheTotalShutdown movement here in South Africa, are welcome developments that show the determination, particularly of young women, to struggle against all forms of gender inequality and discrimination.

But Marxists recognize that as long as capitalism exists the working class cannot help being infected, to one degree or another, by the backward ideas and prejudices that class society encourages. A key question for us is how socialists and class conscious workers respond to this reality. In the first instance it requires paying careful attention to how the workers’ movement itself is organised.

Class society treats women as ‘second class’ people. If trade unions are to fight the bosses, and the capitalist system they defend, they must reject this and stand for the full equality of men and women. Any amount of cowardice or half-heartedness in tackling the issue of gender oppression will hold all working class struggles back. Workers understand the necessity for maximum unity in the workplace. But workers are divided as long as sexist attitudes are tolerated within our movement and sexual harassment treated as ‘normal’ or acceptable behaviour. This must be challenged by workplace campaigns and education. But it also means that the culture inside trade unions, at every level, including the conduct and attitude of its leaders must send a clear message – we are against sexism and patriarchy and do not tolerate it in our own house.

 

Leadership

The ANC government has set the opposite example. Jacob Zuma was the worst kind of patriarch. In 2005, as deputy-president, he stood trial for the rape of Khwezi, a woman decades younger. The obvious abuse of his personal relationship with her (she was the daughter of a close friend and fellow ANC member), regardless of his acquittal, is the very definition of patriarchy. Zuma’s comment that he protected himself from HIV by “taking a shower” has become infamous as a reflection of his dismissive and unapologetic attitude. But not only did he remain an ANC leader, he was elected ANC president soon after with the support of Cosatu, the ANC Women’s League, and the then Julius Malema-led ANC Youth League.

The ANC Women’s League went so far as to say that Khwezi should “feel lucky to have been raped by such a handsome man”. This underlines that patriarchy is an entrenched social power structure that women themselves can internalise – effectively colluding in gender oppression. That the Women’s League, twelve years later, still has no understanding of the power-dynamics in gender oppression is reflected in their new call for the castration of rapists – as if gender violence is reducible to the ‘uncontrollable’ sexual urges of men.

In 2017, ANC deputy-minister, Mduduzi Manana, was charged with assaulting a woman at a night club. The ANC leadership was extremely slow to respond and allowed Manana to remain an MP after he eventually resigned his ministerial position. All of this sent the signal that for the ANC the oppression of women was not a serious offence and that sexists and patriarchs would be protected. Indeed, key ANC government policies, such as the Traditional Courts Bill, legislate to maintain patriarchy, in effect removing equal rights from women living in rural areas.

 

Cosatu & Losi

The significance of Zingiswa Losi’s election as Cosatu’s first woman president has been widely commented on. No doubt this was a considerable personal achievement that required withstanding and defying sexist and patriarchal attitudes over many years. But is it a victory for women in general and working class women in particular? The answer is “no” because Losi remains on the same political programme as her male predecessors.

Losi is a member of the ANC’s NEC and the SA Communist Party’s Central Committee. The neo-liberal capitalist policies of the ANC government over the past generation have entrenched unemployment, poverty and inequality in society. This disproportionately affects women, reinforcing gender inequality. Cosatu has betrayed the working class, and working class women in particular, by giving the ANC government a ‘revolutionary’ alibi throughout this time. Losi clearly intends to continue this stance. She and Cosatu have supported Ramaphosa’s austerity budget, fuel price hikes, poverty-level minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike.

It is a massive disservice to the struggle against women’s oppression to suggest that having a woman in ‘high office’ somehow compensates for any of this. It can only distract attention from the enormous responsibility of the ANC government, supported by the leaders of the SACP and Cosatu, in maintaining the conditions for the oppression of women to flourish.

 

Saftu & Vavi

Many of the workers that have joined the affiliates of the Saftu trade union federation have done so in search of a clean-break from the class collaboration and ineffectiveness of Cosatu and the other federations. There is a burning desire amongst many workers for a genuinely radical and militant trade union alternative. The Saftu strike in April against the ANC government’s attack on workers’ rights and the poverty-level minimum wage put down an important reference point – when all other federations accepted the attack, Saftu alone was prepared to stand-up. The Saftu hosted Working Class Summit in July created another important reference point by bringing together many working class organisations – pointing in the direction of broader working class unity.

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Saftu, has been closely identified with these achievements. He is a popular figure not just with Saftu members but with the working class in general. This will have added to the disappointment felt by many when they heard that Vavi has again been involved in a sexual harassment scandal, again of a woman working in the organisation he leads – this time of a woman employed by Numsa and working as a cleaner in Saftu’s head office.

Some will be stunned and just want to bury their heads in the sand until it ‘blows over’. Others, especially in the leadership of Saftu and its affiliates, will be tempted to down-play the incident and ‘close ranks’. This latter attitude is indicated in Saftu’s reply to media stories. They confirm that the report is true but put it down to “a misunderstanding”. Rather than showing humility and remorse that such an incident could happen at Saftu’s own HQ, involving its most senior leader, the statement is defensive and lashes out in anger at “faceless individuals” on a so-called mission to “destabilise both Saftu and Numsa”.

There is no doubt that a case of sexual harassment in the top leadership of Saftu, coming so closely after the election of Cosatu’s first woman president, is like a gift from heaven for those wanting to discredit attempts to build an alternative outside of the Tripartite Alliance. It is no surprise that the bosses’ Business Day newspaper ran the story with several quotes from the yellow-union, Limusa, which was formed by a small break-away from Numsa. Limusa’s website has not been updated in over a year but they can find the energy for a press release condemning Vavi! No attention should be paid to the likes of these.

But placing centre-stage the obvious fact that Saftu has political enemies, and obsessing about the motives of those who ‘leaked’ the information about Vavi’s misdemeanour, misses the point – there should have been no incident, ‘misunderstanding’ or otherwise, in the first place! That this is not the main message being communicated reveals a lack of gender consciousness on the part of the Saftu leadership. They are overlooking the power relations that exist between the leadership, which is predominantly male, and women who work in trade unions as cleaners, administrators, officials and organisers.  Formerly, trade unions were at the forefront of raising the level of gender consciousness in society as a whole. If Saftu is to distinguish itself from class collaborationist unions, it is its duty to take a primary role in ensuring that sexual harassment is uprooted from all workplaces including its own. In this concrete manner, SAFTU can play a leading role in the struggle against women’s oppression and all its horrific manifestations.  WASP condemns Vavi’s behaviour and is dissatisfied with the Saftu leadership’s response.

The generally progressive beginning that Saftu has made is not guaranteed to continue without a full and conscious break with the bureaucratic traditions of Cosatu and the other federations. How a scandal involving a senior leader is handled is of vital importance. That the woman involved reportedly considers the matter resolved and wants no further action must be respected if accurate, but it should not be the end of the story for a responsible and gender conscious leadership. The Saftu leadership needs to send a clear message to the working class, and working class women first and foremost, about the culture and tradition that Saftu intends to build.

If leadership is to be genuinely accountable then, as a minimum, Vavi should be issued with a final warning that any future conduct even hinting at continued sexual misconduct will result in immediate dismissal. But further, Vavi himself should offer to resign, with a democratic process agreed upon whereby the rank-and-file of Saftu’s affiliates can decide whether or not to accept it.

The broader working class’s consciousness on gender issues has been a casualty of the class collaboration of Cosatu and the other federations. By breaking from this Saftu is potentially well positioned to assist in rebuilding it. A new statement that acknowledges head-on that the patriarchy of class society is an issue facing the working class, and that, starting in its own ranks Saftu is determined to combat it, would be an important start. Crucially, proposals for action could be put forward, including on the development of Saftu’s and its affiliate’s gender education programmes and gender structures. This could include gender control commissions, elected by and accountable to union congresses, co-operating across affiliates and working in a clear and transparent manner, that are empowered to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against office holders – from shop stewards to general secretaries.  They could submit independent reports to Congresses making recommendations on how to deal with them, including urgent referral to the police in cases of violent and threatening behaviour, maintaining independent oversight over the progress of cases and campaigning against any bias or inadequacies in police procedures.

For WASP’s programme on gender equality click here.

The Working Class Summit – an historic step forward

by Weizmann Hamilton, Executive Committee

The Working Class Summit convened by South African Federation of Trade Unions over the weekend of 22-23rd July, 2018, was potentially the most important political development in the workers movement since the dawn of the democratic era. A thousand delegates representing 147 community organisations responded to the call. The overwhelming majority of Working Class Summit delegates resolved in favour of the formation of a workers party to lead the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.

Over the past two decades, working class resistance to the ANC government’s neo-liberal capitalist policies has exhibited a growing militancy. The Department of Labour’s latest report shows that strike figures – including “unprotected” (illegal) actions – are the highest since its records began. At the same time, Municipal IQ and the University of Johannesburg released figures showing that community protests, which had already catapulted SA into the position of protest capital of the world, with the highest number per capita, are now at the highest level ever. After a period of quiescence in the student field following the concession of “free education” a new upsurge in struggles is in the making.

The Working Class Summit (WCS) took place at a time when the scene is being set for an explosive intensification of the struggle between the classes. The ANC’s ongoing struggle between factions equally committed to capitalism has resulted, for now, in the ascendancy of the representative of the wing much more closely aligned to big business. Ramaphosa, arguably capital’s most loyal servant, has taken over the presidential reigns with a clear mandate from his masters – to present the bill for the crisis of capitalism to the working class.

Having reaffirmed his credentials with the blood of the martyrs of Marikana, he has embarked on the most serious assault on working class living standards since the ANC came to power. The most savage austerity budget in the democratic era included an increase in VAT last hiked by the apartheid regime, a fuel levy, the maintenance of the policy to allow the fuel price to increase repeatedly, a sugar tax, and eye-watering cuts in social welfare spending that are set to cut even deeper than the measures taken since the 2008 global economic crisis. The simultaneous amendments to the labour laws, especially the attempt to completely emasculate then right to strike, represents a declaration of class war.

But the unity in action that was the hallmark of the struggle against apartheid has been lacking. In the 1980s such was Cosatu’s political authority that it commanded the respect and support of virtually the entire working class well beyond the boundaries of its membership. Cosatu was the coordinating centre of political and class struggle within the workplace and in the communities with the federation’s locals the organizational expression of the unity in action and solidarity of the township and the workplace.

Today Cosatu is a shadow of its former self. The labour movement fractured, divided between a number of federations and non-aligned unions of varying ideological shades. Workers, both organised and unorganized, have been fighting their battles against the bosses in the workplace, separately from both working class communities mobilizing against corruption, commercialization and privatisation of basic services in the townships and students resisting financial and academic exclusion and for free education.

This disunity is based in the political developments that led to the negotiated settlement at Codesa and afterwards. From the experience of the struggle against white minority rule, the working class had drawn socialist conclusions – that the overthrow of apartheid was inseparable from the struggle against capitalism. Whilst the Codesa negotiations pitted against each other the forces for and against democracy, they simultaneously brought into collision the irreconcilable class interests of the working class and those of the capitalist class. For the capitalist class, the strategic objective of Codesa was the preservation of capitalism; for the working class, the aim was to abolish white minority rule to clear the way for the abolition of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.

However sharp the antagonism between the ANC (and the other smaller parties on its side) and the Nationalist Party and its allies may have been on the question of democracy, they shared a common class interest – the preservation of capitalism. In this context, a vital element in the ANC’s tactical armoury was the subordination of Cosatu’s class interests to its own capitalist aspirations.

Aided by the SACP’s theory of two-stages – democracy now and socialism in the indeterminate future – the ANC leadership was able to strip Cosatu of its political and therefore class independence to clear the way for the realization of its separate and antagonistic class interests – the creation of the conditions for the development of a black capitalist class.  With the consent and active collusion of a captured Cosatu leadership, which was increasingly absorbed into both the state and the corporate world, the working class was condemned to the servitude, exploitation and poverty that marks its life today.

Through the mechanism of the Tripartite Alliance, the ANC, with the SA Communist Party playing a leading role, Cosatu – previously the unquestioned centre of class and political struggle against the apartheid regime – was captured politically. Its ideological edge blunted and stripped of its class independence, Cosatu was emasculated and turned into what many activists contemptuously described as the capitalist ANC’s labour desk.

If the negotiated settlement succeeded in bringing an end to formal apartheid, what it did not, could not and was not intended to end, was class exploitation. That the contradictions between the interests of the working class that brought Cosatu into being and those of the capitalist ANC-led Tripartite Alliance would come to be seen as irreconcilable, was thus built into the foundations of the post-apartheid dispensation.

From it flowed a recognition within the working class that whereas the negotiated settlement had armed them with the right to vote, they were in fact politically disenfranchised. The ANC had come to power to promote the interests not of the working class, but those of the aspirant black capitalist class. Portrayed as an alliance of the black population as a whole to dismantle white minority rule, the Tripartite Alliance came to reveal itself increasingly as an alliance between the black capitalist class and white-dominated capital.

Taking the form initially of a growing stay away from elections, the disillusionment in the ANC reignited the yearning for working class political independence. Never completely extinguished, the yearning for an independent voice for the working class was reflected in the growing demand for Cosatu to form a workers party to contest the ANC in the elections. Initially the view of a minority confined to Numsa at the 1993 Cosatu congress, it increased into to a more substantial 30% within the ANC’s first term of office according to its first survey of shop stewards’ political attitudes in 1998, and into a decisive majority of 67% by 2012 even before the 2012 Marikana massacre.

It is the heroic uprising of the mineworkers in 2012 that cleared the way for the reconfiguration of the alignment of class and political forces.  The mineworkers’ strike was more than over the demand for R12 500 minimum wage. It was a political rebellion again the entire establishment – the bosses, the ANC and the Tripartite – dealing a decisive blow to foundations of the negotiated settlement signed at Codesa. The political and class differentiation expressed itself first at Numsa’s 2013 special national congress resolutions to withdraw electoral support from the ANC and to form a workers party. The formation of the Workers and Socialist Party by the Democratic Socialist Movement and the mineworkers national strike committee and, in a distorted form, the emergence of the populist left nationalist Economic Freedom Fighters signaled the maturing of the conditions for a working class political alternative. The declaration of the WCS for a mass workers party on a socialist programme is therefore fully in step with the conclusions of organised workers.

There was, however, understandable hesitation on the idea of the workers party participating in the 2019 elections. The betrayals of political parties throughout the democratic era made delegates wary of what some felt was the corrupting influence of parliament itself and the conversion of the working class into voting fodder.

This decision is also a reaction against the creation of another SACP – a party manufactured behind the backs of the working class, imposed on it as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the working class. Inspired by the counter-revolutionary ideas of Stalin whose regime was established on the crushing of the workers’ democracy on which the Bolshevik government was based, the SACP is a model of precisely the type of party the working class does not need. It has been participating in parliament under the coat tails of the ANC mobilizing the working class through Cosatu, to subordinate the interests of the working class to the class aspirations of their Alliance leader, portraying the anti-working class post-apartheid dispensation as the first, “national democratic”  stage towards socialism in the indefinite future.

To maintain such a “vanguard” position, the SACP of necessity had to erect a barrier to internal democracy, prevent workers control and even to impose a limit on its own growth to avoid it developing into a mass formation that would by the logic of the struggle against capitalism inevitably have to mobilize against the capitalist ANC.

The declaration of the WCS for a mass workers party on a socialist programme is in fact an attempt to continue on the path towards toward the reclamation of working class and political independence onto which the mineworkers had set the working class. Had the Numsa leadership proceeded with the implementation of its Special National Congress resolutions to launch a mass workers party, even in 2016, late as that itself would have been, the ongoing disunity within the working class and the emergence of reactionary racist and xenophobic ideas and forces could have been confronted much earlier.  Notwithstanding this delay, the birth of Saftu, in which Numsa played a decisive role, moved the caravan of history beyond the “Numsa moment” to its next station – the “Saftu moment”.

That the process is no longer in the hands of Numsa alone, but that of Saftu, is a progressive development. The ongoing reconfiguration of class and political forces is thus no longer the responsibility of Numsa alone, but has been thrust onto the shoulders of the much wider forces represented by Saftu, and following the WCS that of the 147 community organisations that participated in this historic event.

The split in Cosatu that prepared the way for the birth of Saftu was more than just the realization of the desire for a new trade union federation. It was an attempt to retie the knot of history of the revolutionary socialist traditions on which Cosatu was founded and which have been trampled underfoot as a once mighty federation degenerated in the political prison of the Tripartite Alliance.

That the WCS summit was convened within a year of Saftu’s founding, confirms the subterranean class processes at play as the struggle between the bosses and the working class has sharpened and the political process that flow from them pose again the need for working class political independence. Once this step had been taken, the question of a workers party moved firmly back on the agenda.

The summit was preceded by Saftu’s highly successful 25th April national general strike against Ramaphosa’s policies – the first consciously political action against the ANC government. This not only brought the major cities to a standstill, but more importantly, established Saftu as a point of reference, and potentially a new command center to coordinate the struggle against capitalism in the workplace and on the political plane.

WASP played an important role from the onset raising the necessity for working class party political unity at Saftu’s founding congress. The adoption of a resolution to form a workers party and the establishment of Political and Ideological Commission to prepare the way for a workers party confirmed that our views resonated with the majority.

 

Should the workers party participate in parliament?

WASP fully supports the commitment of the WCS summit to roll out summits provincially and locally throughout the country. We agree similarly that the primary role of these summits is to unite the working class across and within all the main theatres of struggle – the communities, the education sector and the workplace – where the intensifying struggle between the classes is being fought out on a daily basis now and to knit them together into a mass workers party on a socialist programme in line with the declaration.

However, understandable as the hesitation to participate in the 2019 elections is, we believe it would be a mistake not to participate in parliament. That parliament is not the seat of power in a capitalist society is of course correct. The power of the capitalist class, resides, in the final analysis, in the state — the armed men and women, as defined by Engels — in the army, the police, the state security agencies etc.—buttressed by the media, the education system etc.

Moreover, it is not the aim of the aim of the socialist revolution to “capture state power” as the SACP couches its empty threats to stand separately from the ANC. The SACP’s formulation is not accidental. If the socialist state is not yet on the agenda, but must await the completion of the “national democratic revolution”, the SACP can only mean that the working class must “capture” the existing capitalist state.    This has absolutely nothing in common with either the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, or the experience of the Russian Revolution and the lessons we must learn from it.

The working class can emancipate itself from capitalist slavery not by reforming the capitalist state as the logic of the SACP’s position dictates. The working class must dismantle the capitalist state as a shop steward expressed it at Cosatu’s founding congress in 1985. The working class must construct in its place its own state based on workers democracy, socialism and international working class solidarity – a state moreover that will set into motion its own dissolution into society to clear the way towards a classless communist society that can come about only on a worldwide basis.

But to interpret the stay away from the polls as indicative of a generalized understanding that parliament is an integral part of the institutions of capitalist class rule, is to mistake the first month of pregnancy with the ninth. Significant as the fact that 147 organisations constituted the WCS, the forces present still represent a minority of both the working class in the workplace and in society broadly. Nor is there yet a generalised socialist consciousness. It would be a serious mistake to confuse the understanding of a conscious minority with that of the broad mass. The task of the forces of the WCS summit is to win over the mass to socialism through a combination of action and, to use Lenin’s phrase, patiently explaining that the problems of exploitation cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism and requires workers power and the socialist transformation of society.

The millions staying away from the elections do so out disillusionment with the political parties that dominate parliament and not with parliament itself. To tear away illusions in parliament, a serious revolutionary socialist mass workers party, must participate in it. But it must do so on its own terms, with its own programme, its own principles and with the purpose of dispelling illusions in it. Above all, participation in parliament must be subordinate to the struggle of the masses against capitalism outside parliament.

Those comrades who cite the Bolsheviks in support of boycotting parliament are misrepresenting the history of the Bolshevik’s strategies and tactics. Lenin criticized the Bolsheviks in the Social Democratic Labour Party (in which they operated as a tendency before establishing themselves as separate, independent revolutionary mass workers party on a socialist programme) for boycotting the 1907 Duma elections in spite of the fact that he denounced it as a “cowshed”. The Bolsheviks continued to send deputies to parliament throughout the period leading up to and even (for a brief period before dispersing the bourgeois Constituent Assembly) beyond the insurrection and conquest of power in October. The Bolsheviks did so to aid those more backward sections of the masses with illusions in parliament to unite with the more advanced workers to ensure maximum unity for the conquest of power.   We will deal with this question in greater detail in a future publication. In the meantime we urge comrades to read Lenin’s “Should Bolsheviks participate in bourgeois parliaments?

We do not accept the argument that there is not time to launch the party in time for the 2019 elections. Both Cope and the EFF were able to secure more than a million votes despite being less than a year old when they stood.

The capitalist crisis is not only economic it is also political. Their main parties, the ANC and the DA are in crisis. The factional civil war in the ANC has flared up again and may prevent it from winning enough votes to form a government on its own. The more far sighted strategists of the capitalist class have recognised that the crisis-ridden DA is not capable of forming an alternative government. They are therefore preparing and encouraging the idea of a collation government in which they are willing to contemplate the EFF as a partner as it increasingly shifts to the right on its key “pillars” – land and nationalization. This will be a pro-capitalist coalition presented to us as necessary to unite an increasingly fractured and divided “nation” – a possible second edition of the Government of National Unity that ushered in the democratic era.

The second edition of a GNU will be as short-lived as the first. As the experience of the local government experiments of coalitions shows, it will be unstable and, more importantly be used to legitimise even more savage attacks on the working class in the name of all of us suffering together to “save the country and the economy.”

The working class will then once again have no voice of its own to resist the attacks the capitalist class is preparing.  In the heightened political climate that elections create, the forces of the WCS would be depriving itself of a political platform to reach the twelve million who have not been voting as well as those voting for the ANC out of sentiment, or the EFF and even the DA to punish the ANC.

WASP therefore calls upon the WCS to roll out the launch of provincial and local summits. The 16 September Western Cape meeting calling for a Total Shutdown on 25 September, is an excellent example of how working class communities can be united. Unfortunately it appears there was no direct connection between the WCS summit resolution to roll out provincial and local summits. The resolutions of the Western Cape Total Shutdown meeting correctly resolved that the movement it is establishing will not be allowed to be hijacked by “party political agendas”.

To the extent that this is to inoculate the movement against being hijacked by existing political parties, it is entirely correct. But the absence of a commitment to create a mass workers party, will not guarantee its independence.  Like the current Saftu policy of being “independent but not apolitical” ignores the reality the most effective way in which to protect the independence of working class movements is by creating our own party, with our manifesto and our own programme of action. To abstain from the political terrain is to leave it to be dominated by anti-working class forces and to reduce the working class to neutral spectators to the class struggle in which we are the main victims. The fact that the likes of Fedusa are party-politically independent has not shielded it from supporting the anti-working class policies adopted by Nedlac on the minimum wage and the attack on the right to strike.

WASP calls upon the Western Cape Shut down to mobilize both for the total shutdown and to create the framework for a mass workers party in line with the WCS resolutions. Such a party can be created in line with the WC Shut Down principles that it must be based on the principles outlined in its resolutions: that it be owned and lead by our working class communities and is grounded in grassroots practices and processes.

WASP believes the raw material for the manifesto of the workers party contemplated by the WCS is contained in the declaration and summit documents summarizing the main discussions of the commissions as adopted.

To this we would add that all publicly elected representatives should be elected from amongst the ranks of working class communities and workplaces on the principle of a workers representative on a workers wage election subject to the right of immediate recall. We argue furthermore that the workers party be federal, allowing for affiliation of all genuine working class formations without the fear of losing their organizational, ideological and political identity subject to accepting the democratic decisions of the structures at all levels adopted after a full, fraternal and democratic debate.

Victory for the oppressed workers in Flagstaff

by Vuyo Mapompo, Flagstaff  WASP

Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, is where one particularly witnesses the most disgusting and worst oppression of workers. Mostly in shops. The town itself is filled with independently owned shops. Most of those employers exploit the labour of the workers and subject them to inhumane working conditions.


Workers earn as little as R10 per hour while working 9 hours per day, 7 days a week without a lunchbreak. That amounts to R630 per week, but at Rana Supermarket they were paid as little as R540 per week.  This is a shop that has been operating in this town for a number of years under the surveillance of the Department of Labour, who is supposed to inspect these shops regularly to ensure that the shops comply at least with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). One could ask: What were they saying or doing all these years? Why have workers been exploited to such an extent on their watch? These are the questions we should all ask ourselves in order to understand that the workers have no one but themselves to rely on. For so many years workers could not even rely on the Department of Labour to rescue them from the oppression of their employers.

GIWUSA appealed a number of times for the Department of Labour to examine the conditions of the workers in Flagstaff since as early as 2017. During our visits to their offices in Lusikisiki we were informed that the inspectors indeed went to inspect in the whole town, but nothing changed since then.

The fights between the employers and GIWUSA in Flagstaff did not start yesterday. It has been an ongoing battle with a number of challenges for the union. What is even more stressful, and further proof that workers have no one but themselves to rely on, is the fact that even CCMA does not even respond on cases filed by GIWUSA in Flagstaff. We have cases filed as early as March and April this year for which we have received absolutely no response. Who can these workers at least rely on if even CCMA ignores their cries?

 

A small victory for the Rana workers

At least now the Rana workers will no longer be paid R10 per hour as before. They will now get at least R16 per hour. Starting immediately,  the workers will be granted lunch, something they never got since they started working. The labour department had made a commitment to determine the exact amount the employer owes to the workers since they have been underpaid and the employer will have to pay back that money of the workers. The employer has agreed to sign a contract with the employees as permanent workers. The employer will register the workers for UIF and also provide the workers with payslips. The trade union and the employer are still in ongoing negotiations to improve the working conditions of the workers in the workplace.

Way forward

We encourage all workers of the town in Flagstaff to be organised, join a trade union, and to build a workers committee that will look at all workers issues in the town and organise a campaign against all employers who continue to exploit the workers while paying them close to nothing. The workers must take power to themselves and force employers to comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Only a united force of the workers will force the Department of Labour, the CCMA, and even the municipality to do their jobs in ensuring the rights of the workers.

Workers of Flagstaff must unite for they have nothing to lose but their chains.

WASP National Committee Meeting: Questions & Answers on the SA political situation

The Workers and Socialist Party held its National Committee in Johannesburg on 1 and 2 September. The meeting was attended by Alec Thraves on behalf of the International Executive Committee of the CWI, the revolutionary socialist international to which WASP is affiliated.

South Africa’s long history of struggle means that many of the most thinking workers across the globe follow developments closely. Alec posed questions to some of those in attendance at the meeting on issues of most interest to workers around the world.

Has the support for the new ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa, that the media has enthusiastically termed “Ramaphoria”, been sustained? Will the ANC retain a majority in the 2019 general election?

Reply from Shaun Arendse, WASP Executive Committee

“Ramaphoria” was a very limited phenomenon. In reality it originated in the desperate hope of the capitalist class that the political and economic instability of the Zuma years could be left behind. This infected a section of the middle class and the media played along, trying to ‘talk up’ the economy, and heralding the start of a so-called ‘new dawn’ for South Africa. But ultimately, the corruption of the Zuma years was a symptom of rotten South African capitalism and not its underlying cause. On the fundamentals Ramaphosa is offering the same old neo-liberal diet. The economy remains stagnant and there have been tens of thousands of job losses since he took office.

Ramaphosa may have come to power on Valentine’s Day but there is no love, or even any real enthusiasm for him, amongst the working class – ‘Ramaphoria’ has barely touched them. Especially amongst organised workers and activists Ramaphosa is viewed as an out-and-out big business politician. His is also remembered as the ‘butcher of Marikana’, where, in 2012, as a shareholder of platinum mine Lonmin, and a senior ANC leader, he demanded the police minister identify a mineworkers’ strike as a “criminal act” and take “concomitant action”. The next day 34 mineworkers were gunned down at Marikana.

In Ramaphosa’s first months as president, parliament passed new anti-trade union legislation increasing the power of the courts and unelected commissioners over strikes and introducing restrictive picketing rules and secret strike ballots. Failure to comply can lead to trade unions being deregistered. He has not left much room for doubt that that bosses have got ‘their man’ in the job.

A general election must be called between May and August 2019. The move to replace Zuma ahead of these elections was in large part driven by the ANC leadership’s fear that they could lose their majority in this election with him at the helm. In the 2016 local government elections the ANC’s vote slid to just 54%. There is no doubt that the ANC will emerge from the 2019 elections as the biggest party but it is possible that they could lose their majority posing a coalition government. Ramaphosa has not been the guarantee against this that many ANC politicians expected.

However, the dominant trend amongst the working class and poor is to abstain in elections. The left-populist Economic Freedom Fighters has been unable to significantly increase its support and the main opposition Democratic Alliance, with its roots in the white middle class, has been embroiled in damaging factional fights reinforcing its image as a ‘white boys club’. However, there could be a certain ‘swing’ back to the ANC from a section of the black middle class alienated by this and a section of the white middle class may be willing to vote for Ramaphosa ‘the man’, if remaining unenthusiastic about his party. This, in the absence of a mass working class alternative, combined with low turnout, could see the ANC hold on to a slight majority.

 

There are already three major trade union federations in South Africa, COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU so isn’t the recent formation of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) just going to add further divisions?

Reply from Lebohang Phanyeko,  National Organiser of SAFTU (personal capacity)

The other three Federations are led by South Africa’s labour aristocracy who are chaining the organised workers and frustrating them. These so-called workers leaders are determined to keep the status quo and SAFTU’s birth represents a new, fresh hope for organised workers.

I don’t think workers will be more divided because they will and are joining SAFTU as a new fighting, socialist Federation.

The last general strike, called by SAFTU in April, saw workers from the other trade union federations join and participate in the strike despite the opposition of their leaders.

I believe that SAFTU can gradually unite the working class in South Africa where conditions, wages and retrenchments are worsening every day.

SAFTU’s key focus must be on the 76% of workers who don’t belong to a union because the other federations just ignore them so we must urgently recruit and organise them.

 

For several months Cape Town has faced a water shortage crisis with severe restrictions put in place. What has been the reaction of city residents?

Reply from Rose Lichtenstein, Cape Town WASP

The water (mis)management crisis in Cape Town rightfully became a ‘common ground’ issue for all layers of the South African working class to organise around. Resistance came in all forms, some successful, others ignored.

Some communities managed to completely block any installations of the dehumanising water management devises that the government have rolled out in their thousands every week. Petitions and protests have helped in the reduction of water charges but has been ineffective so far in bringing a much needed revolutionary restructuring of the water supply system and its funding which residents identified were at the root cause of the crisis.

With dams now filling beyond expectations some wealthier residents have fallen away from the struggle but WASP has committed itself to building amongst the forces who continue to see no relief despite the rains and are continuing to build ‘crisis committees’ in their communities.

Currently we have a powerful force in the Water Crisis Coalition which was formed at the peak of the drought last January and will continue to assist in the struggle for an accessible and affordable water supply in Cape Town.

 

The ‘Total Shutdown’ demonstrations in August (Women’s month in South Africa) mobilised thousands of women protesting against the widespread abuse, rape, violence and murder of women across South Africa. What role did WASP play in this movement?

Reply from Phemelo Motseokae and Ferron Pedro, WASP’s women’s caucus

Women in South Africa are paying a horrendous price for living in a brutalised, violent and poverty stricken society.

Horrifically, in a country of just 57 million, one women is killed every 4 hours! Even more disturbing is the fact that 50% of these murders are committed by the women’s partners.

The South African police service has reported the grotesque statistics that a rape takes place every 36 seconds across the country and yet there is only a 4-8% conviction rate!

Our WASP’s women’s caucus wrote an article in preparation for the #TotalShutdown protests explaining our position on the issue of violence against women, relating it to the class issues in society and presenting our specific demands.

Our women cadres attended the march in Pretoria and distributed 500 pamphlets and sold-out of our magazine Izwi. The contacts we received were invited to our branch meeting where we discussed ‘The struggle against women’s oppression’.

We will be collaborating with our comrades in the General Industrial & Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) and organising some WASP women’s meetings where issues facing women can be discussed out with a socialist alternative on offer.

 

How important is the ‘land question’ amongst the urban working class and does WASP support the demand of the ANC & EFF for land ‘expropriation without compensation (EWC)?

Reply from Trevor Shaku, Bloemfontein WASP

People want land mainly for residential and economic purposes. The fact that racial inequalities still persist also mean that some people want land from a historical and moralist standpoint i.e. to correct the historical injustice of land dispossession. From this angle, a huge bulk of the masses do not think we should compensate. We want land to be owned commonly by the people under the democratic management of the working class and communities.

The fact is that the majority of our people live as rentees of shacks in the backyards of smaller plots in the urban areas, so the expropriation of land will help solve this problem. However, land expropriation must go hand in hand with mass housing projects. We call for the nationalisation of the commercial farms as a step in the direction of organising production. As far as compensation is concerned, it must be conditional. Absolutely no compensation for the big landowners and corporation chiefs who have exploited us for generations but compensation should be considered on the basis of proven need for localised farmers and the smallest shareholders.

 

Service Delivery protests in the townships has reached its highest ever level, increasing from one protest every second day nationwide to three or four every single day! Why has there been such a dramatic increase?

Reply from Executive Mukhwevo, Ennerdale community activist

South Africa has been experiencing service delivery protests for more than 20 years, since the dawn of our ‘new era’. These struggles are centred around housing, land and the lack of social service delivery in general.

In and around the Soweto townships the protests have skyrocketed to the level of a Gauteng Provincial shutdown in 2017. This forced the government to succumb to the pressure because it was accompanied by many deaths. The citizens were demanding the presence of both spheres of government and for the national and local government representatives to answer to their demands.

In their responses, these combination of crooks just used the usual excuses which are always the obstacles to the provisions of service deliveries. And as usual they promised to the people that within 3 months most of the matters they raised would be attended to. However, to this day nothing has ever happened and not a single matter has been attended to and the service delivery struggle goes on.

 

After 5 years of dragging its feet, it appears that NUMSA, South Africa’s largest trade union, will be launching the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party in December. What is WASP’s approach to this development?

Reply from Sheri Hamilton, Greater Eldorado Park United Civic Movement

Our attitude towards the SRWP is that if it wants to play a role in filling the working class political vacuum then it should be open, democratic and built on the basis of a federal structure, which unfortunately is not the case at the moment. We believe that the only way we can persuade other working class formations to unite under one banner in time for the 2019 General Election is to adopt this approach.

However, there is still time over the next few months to implement the decision of Working Class Summit convened by Saftu and roll out Provincial Assemblies where a platform of minimum demands can be agreed for a new workers party.

 

What impact has the #Outsourcing Must Fall (#OMF) movement had since its formation?

Reply from Mametlwe Sebei, President of GIWUSA (Personal capacity)

#OMF mobilised thousands of outsourced workers across the country in the struggle to end their precarious work and poverty wages. The campaign was initiated by WASP because none of the trade unions were taking up fight against outsourcing.

The campaign organised workers into shop floor committees that coordinated workers across different sectors such as cleaners, secretaries, electricians, security guards etc on a city wide basis.

In Tshwane, where the campaign started, it won massive victories including at the University of Pretoria where workers who were previously outsourced and employed on short-term contracts and poverty pay of R2,500 were insourced with permanent contracts, increased benefits and a 300% wage increase over 3 years!

#OMF, by winning over workers previously unorganised, has contributed to revitalising the organised labour movement. Thousands of new members have joined GIWUSA and the new left trade union federation SAFTU to which the campaign is now affiliated.

Violence Against Women & the Struggle for Socialism

WASP members will be participating in the #TotalShutdown marches organised for 1 August.

by WASP Womens Caucus

The Medical Research Council of South Africa revealed in 2017 that it is women who are among the poorest 20% of society that experience the most violence. SAPS 2016/17 reported that a woman is raped every 36 seconds and in 2015 Stats SA found that almost 61% of femicide cases take place at the woman’s home. About 150 women report being raped to the police daily. Fewer than 30 of the cases will be prosecuted, and no more than 10 will result in a conviction – this translates into an overall conviction rate of 4% – 8% of reported rape. Many women do not report rape because of the poor conviction rate. Movements like #MeToo have clearly demonstrated that rape is a problem throughout the world. Women are sexually assaulted by their bosses, their partners and strangers. Despite this impunity, some men claim they now fear “flirting” with women because of these reports. Sexual harassment is downplayed by those like former president Jacob Zuma who said “When men compliment you innocently, you say its harassment.”


Too little is done to make society a safe environment for women and children. As well as discrimination, the brutality brought to bear on women is extended to LGBTQI people in the form of “corrective” rape, mob killings and in some countries, the death sentence. LGBTQI groups experience oppression under capitalism because they ‘threaten’ family structures that help to reproduce class inequality through the subjugation of women to men and other forms of discrimination including race, ethnicity, religion and nationality.

Gender based violence is one of the many features of a patriarchal class society. Men hold power over women and are supported in this, by culture, religion and educational institutions as well as the media. When this ‘soft power’ fails, their dominance is exercised through violence to either control or punish or silence women. For centuries, female genital mutilation in Africa has been practiced as part of culture, so also was the binding of women’s feet in China, honour killings in India, witch burnings in Europe and many more horrific crimes that continue to this day despite being outlawed in many countries.

Patriarchy has given men a false sense that “manhood” is exercised through violence, control and subjugation of women especially when they are being badly treated at work or feel powerless in society. The sense of alienation of capitalism also explains suicide levels among men that are five time higher than among women. Furthermore, men too, are affected by this violence against their daughters, mothers and wives and to a lesser extent, against themselves. This is why men’s movements like #NotInMyName surfaced precisely from the understanding that it is our collective responsibility to fight oppression and inequality, most importantly the very system that breeds and continues to perpetuate it. Oppression of women and the LGBTQI community, which are distinct features of capitalism, needs to end now. The struggle for freedom and equality is necessarily a struggle to do away with capitalism and bring forth a socialist society so we can bring about permanent change and equality for all regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation. This can only be achieved by struggles led by the working class (both men and women) for the total transformation of society.

 

We campaign for the following:

  • Campaign and fight for equal pay for equal work; fight for paid parental leave for all workers (men and women); fight for free, state-funded and high-quality pre-school education for all; fight for high-quality, accessible shelters for survivors of domestic abuse and rape and create the freedom to leave abusive relationships. Link up with the trade union movement.
  • Build democratic, accountable mass community organisations in every community.
  • Participate in Community Policing Forums and fight for community oversight of policing to combat corruption and ensure all reports of GBV are taken seriously and dealt with professionally and quickly; organise community watch programmes under the democratic control of community organisations with the mass participation of the community.
  • Community organisations to campaign against domestic violence and rape in communities; community-watch programmes to take up defence of women with the full participation of women.
  • Community organisations to campaign against hate crimes against LGBTQI people, including corrective rape; community watch programmes to take up defence of LGBTQI people with the full participation of LGBTQI people.
  • Campaign for training on gender-based violence for all law enforcement and court officials
  • Campaign for adequate resources to investigate and stop human trafficking.
  • End the class foundations of gender inequality. Nationalise under democratic working class and community control the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses for a publicly owned and democratically planned socialist economy to meet the needs of all.
  • 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.

The workers party we need

by Sheri Hamilton Executive Committee

The SA Federation of Trade Unions’ 25 April national strike potentially signals a decisive shift in working class struggle. The estimated 100,000 workers silenced Saftu’s critics.  Millions now look to Saftu as an alternative to Cosatu and as a point of reference.


This was in fact the first conscious political general strike against the ANC government post-apartheid. The Cosatu-led general strikes against Gear and privatization, as well as the public sector strikes of 2007 and 2010, were against particular policies of its alliance partner – the ANC government. Whilst the 25 April strike was called to oppose the new poverty-level minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike, there is no doubt that for the workers taking part, this strike was a rejection of both the ousted Zuma-led -ANC and the “new” Ramaphosa one. This poses the question of a workers’ party.

The ANC leadership under Ramaphosa remains firmly committed to neo-liberalism. The ground continues to be prepared for a social explosion. In anticipation, the strategists of capital are preparing for a possible coalition government from some combination of the DA, ANC and even the EFF. The working class is lagging behind.

 

SACP’s treachery

The political vacuum on the left has been magnified by the degeneration of the SACP-led Cosatu. In reality the early Cosatu was a quasi-workers party in the struggle against apartheid and capitalism. Saftu’s challenge now is to complete the retying of the knot of history politically and ideologically. In 1982, Joe Foster, general secretary of Cosatu’s predecessor, Fosatu, warned prophetically that the lesson of independent Africa was that unions should protect their independence against capture by post-colonial governments.

However, Foster did not draw the conclusion of the need for a workers’ party that his position implied. Recognising that this was the logic of his argument, the SACP denounced Foster for not recognising it as the “vanguard” of the working class.

The SACP “vanguard” barred the way to the development of an independent workers party, captured Cosatu and trapped it in the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance. Acting as the shock troops of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – the first stage of the bankrupt two-stage theory –they engineered the derailment of a potential socialist revolution. Confused by the SACP, the Cosatu leadership was absorbed into the capitalist state.

Marikana exposed the ANC as the party of capital like nothing before. But even before the massacre, a survey of shop stewards showed support for Cosatu to form a workers party had reached 65%.  The mineworkers’ support for the launch of WASP, NUMSA’s 2013 Special National Congress resolutions and the significant increase in the number of communities standing independently in elections confirmed this.  The working class was yearning for is its own party.

Unfortunately, despite all of this, Saftu’s “independent but not apolitical” policy goes no further than Foster in 1982. But unlike Foster, Saftu has the benefit of the experience of 24-years of ANC rule.

Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa’s collaboration on the national minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike shows that abstention from party politics does not guarantee independence. Independence is a class question. Political parties represent the interests of classes or fractions of them. Cosatu’s betrayal was caused by collaborating with a capitalist party – the ANC. Saftu must form an alliance with a political party with a programme based on the interests of the working class. By concluding from the experience of the struggle against corruption that it will be necessary to remove the ANC government in the North West Saftu is reinforcing the need for a workers party.

 

Party of struggle

The SACP imposed itself on the working class as a pre-fabricated “vanguard’ with a programme manufactured behind the backs of the working class, shielding itself from accountability. A genuine workers party must answer the question: “how do we take our struggles forward?” Therefore it must become the furnace that forges the fighting unity of the working class; it must be a party of struggle.

What must be the party’s guiding political principle? In our view a socialist programme is the only possible one – the aim of a society run by and for the working class. The foundation for this is the call for the nationalisation under democratic working class control of the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and other big businesses. A new workers party must be based on a programme of action that links the immediate issues faced by the working class to the need to fundamentally transform society on a socialist basis As an example, we propose that the struggle for a living wage be championed by the new party through a demand like this:

Organise the workplaces to win R12,500! Build industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite workers in a campaign of rolling mass action. Lock-out the bosses in non-complying industries through workplace occupations that demand nationalisation under workers control. Mass defiance of laws that stop workers defending themselves.

We propose the new party works out similar demands for the struggles (1) to end unemployment, (2) win service delivery and houses, (3) high quality free health care, and (4) genuinely free and decolonised education.

A new party must allow for open and free debate, maximum democracy, collective development of a manifesto and programme of action. As well as individual membership, the party must have a federal component allowing for the fighting unity of existing working class organisations. The party’s leadership must be elected on the principles of the right of recall and that a workers’ representative must earn only a workers wage.

The Working Class Summit initiated by Saftu for 21-22 July must place on its agenda the question of consciously filling the political vacuum with a new party – a vacuum Saftu’s own 25 April strike again underlined.

 

This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.

Will land expropriation without compensation end inequality?

by Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee

The ANC’s May 2018 Land Summit has referred a proposal to amend its Expropriation Bill to its NEC to allow for expropriation of land without compensation (EWC). Then the Constitutional Court will be asked to test it for compliance with Clause 25 – the Property Clause. Malema has offered his party’s 6% to the ANC’s 62% to achieve the two-thirds threshold to amend the constitution.


Predictably the white right has spread alarm amongst urban and rural whites of impending doom – land invasions, home dispossessions and an escalation of the toxic myth of white farmer genocide. The DA has denounced EWC as theft and a violation of the sanctity of private property.  Even the normally sober capitalist, Business Day has indulged in histrionics: “land expropriation, a reason to panic” (Peter Bruce). A “desperate, terrible, historic land mistake”, editor Tim Cohen lamented (BusinessLive 05/03/2018).

Whether the ANC Land Summit’s approach will result in a constitutional amendment, remains to be seen. The ANC, however, is not waiting for the ConCourt process. There is consensus amongst legal experts, including the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and Acceleration of Fundamental Change, (HLP) led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, established in 2017. The Property Clause neither prohibits EWC nor insists on the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle or that “just and equitable” compensation necessarily means “market value”.

The Gauteng Government will now immediately start identifying unused land for “rapid release”. It will implement a “site-and-service” programme, and distribute title deeds weekly on “Title Deed Friday”.

Will EWC achieve economic emancipation, the correction of the historical injustice caused by the “original sin” of colonial and apartheid land dispossession?

 

Inequalities in wealth rooted in class, not race

Black nationalists claim ALL whites own SA’s wealth. It is of course true that the apartheid social pyramid – whites at the top, Indians below them and coloureds further down, closest to black Africans – still persists today. But superimposed upon massive racial inequalities are class inequalities. In fact the fastest growing inequality is amongst blacks.

This applies also to land ownership. Only 8% of whites live in rural areas. The claim that ALL whites own the country’s wealth and land is false. Only a tiny minority within the white population today, as under apartheid, owns the majority of wealth in general and land in particular.

The EFF is providing the ANC with an alibi for its betrayals. In fact the greatest indictment against the ANC is that under it, black land dispossession without compensation has continued uninterrupted.

 

Gear – the original sin

The Growth Employment and Redistribution policy (Gear) has had a catastrophic effect. In the cities expectations of a decent life for all were betrayed. In the rural areas the ANC land policy’s three main planks – redistribution, restitution and tenure reform – failed.

The “opening up” of SA’s agricultural markets under Gear threw established white and emerging black farmers into the shark-infested waters of neo-liberal global capitalism. Gear-dictated public spending cuts meant the Land Reform budget, which never exceeded 1%, is today at its lowest level ever – 0.4% –only 0.1% for land redistribution. Only 9% of land has been redistributed.

Addressing Parliament’s Land Reform Portfolio Committee, Dr Aninka Claassens, UCT Land and Accountability Research Centre director, pointed out that land tenure is more insecure than under apartheid. The few who obtain redistributed land remain tenants of the state with “conditional use rights” subject to “productivity”.

The land reform budget and farms are subject to elite capture. At the present rate it will take another 40 years to complete restitution “…if land claims are reopened and the expected 397,000 claims are lodged, it will take more than 700 years.” (Daily Maverick 15/03/18) Corruption means no support for land restitution.

White farmers exposed to escalating farming costs, have evicted hundreds of thousands of workers and tenants, accelerating urban migration. Squatter camps have mushroomed as public spending caps have created a massive housing backlog. There have been over 4,000 land occupations over the past two years. This shows that in urban areas they are driven by the need for housing, jobs, access to health and education.

As Mmatlou Kalaba, University of Pretoria Agricultural Economics lecturer points out: The apartheid regime had supported the white farming sector through direct subsidies, cooperatives, commodity boards, input subsidization, preferential Land Bank financing terms, tariff protection, guaranteed market access through agricultural control boards and profits through price controls. Dismantling this system completely, the ANC government opened up the agricultural and food markets beyond World Trade Organisation accession criteria. Today only 13% of the Land Bank’s loan book clients are black.

Today agricultural production is monopolised by a handful of conglomerates in turn controlled by finance capital. “…about 40,000 large-scale, capital-intensive and corporatised operations produce 91% of agricultural production. They, and their retail and value chain counterparts, control the availability, price, quality and nutritional value of what we eat, not the indebted small commercial farmers.” (Businesslive 12/03/18).

These corporations are in turn controlled by the banks: Standard Bank, First Rand, Nedcor, Investec, and international institutions banks like JP Morgan Securities and RMB Morgan Stanley control on average 70% of the agricultural value chain. (Uncensoredopinion.co.za 13/07/17)

 

ANC continues black land dispossession

For colluding with colonialism and apartheid the pre-capitalist traditional leaders faced armed resistance, most famously the late 50s Pondoland Uprising. Instead of dismantling these institutions, the ANC legitimised, funded and expanded them.   Traditional leaders collude with big business and multinational corporations in pillaging mineral resources, destroying the environment and exploiting rural populations. Black rural dwellers find themselves today as tenants on this communal land. They have no title, no right or means to develop the land and under constant threat of eviction.

The Royal Bafokeng Nation’s (RBN), control of platinum mines profits, is riddled with corruption the former public protector found. The Ngonyama Trust, of which King Goodwill Zwelithini is sole trustee, encompassing 30% of KwaZulu Natal’s most fertile land was given to the Zulu Royal House in secret by De Klerk the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Gatha Buthelezi, the king’s uncle, a week before the 1994 elections to persuade him to participate.

Tenants are given “Permission to Occupy” (PTOs) certificates – an apartheid invention.  The Trust netted R96 million in 2016/17 from developer fees. The Trust now plans to replace PTOs with 40-Year lease agreements. Rent defaulters’ leases will be cancelled, their assets expropriated without compensation for improvements.

Ramaphosa’s insistence that EWC should not threaten “food security” is a signal to big business that they will not be subject to EWC. King Zwelithini has threatened to build up a financial war chest to resist any attempt to wind up the Ingonyama Trust Land as recommended by the Motlanthe-led HLP. Immediately after his State of the Nation EWC announcement, Ramaphosa reassured the House of Traditional Leaders that they remain the recognised custodians of traditional land. At the Land Summit, he apologized for Motlanthe’s description of traditional leaders as “village tin-pot dictators” in effect repudiating the HPL’s recommendations.

The RBN’s court action against the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs shows traditional leaders consider themselves accountable neither to the government nor their “subjects”. The RBN insists it is the lawful custodian of over 60 properties and do not need to consult.

The EFF completely agrees with Ramaphosa on the property of big business traditional leaders. National spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi stated on Sharpeville Day that the EFF has no intention of touching private property (Huffington Post 21/10/18). Both the ANC NEC and the EFF have responded to King Zwelithini’s threats by offering conciliation and talks.

 

Only socialism can eradicate poverty, inequality and mass unemployment

It is possible, even likely, that there will be some land expropriation without compensation with or without a constitutional amendment. Facing a possible election defeat in 2019, the ANC is in desperate need to be seen to be doing something different, even radical, to secure electoral support.

But EWC will not eradicate inequality, unemployment, poverty or even homelessness. In embracing EWC Ramaphosa is not repudiating neo-liberal capitalism. He is renewing the ANC’s vows with it. His budget was the most savage austerity since 1994. The fear of a rating agency downgrade means there will be no increased social spending.

 

Land ownership does not provide jobs, access to decent health, education or affordable services. Ramaphosa’s commitment to protecting food security is meaningless for the 15 million who go to bed hungry every night or the 18% of African children (20% coloured, 7% Indian and even 7% white) who suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

The Gauteng Provincial Government’s site and service scheme will not exempt title deed holders from the ever rising cost of services. It is also an abdication of its responsibility to provide housing. Those able to afford a mortgage are at risk of dispossession by the banks. 1000 houses are repossessed every month. The capitalists are in fact implementing their own EWC in both the farms and the cities.

The banks, agri-business, industry, construction, commerce are all inextricably linked together in the reproduction of poverty and inequality. It is not the constitution that stopped the ANC from implementing genuine radical economic transformation – the nationalization of the agricultural and financial cartels that dominate food production, distribution and sales under the democratic control and management of the working class. It is its commitment, shared with the EFF, to capitalism. The Property Clause is a diversion – an attempt to infect the masses with the constitutional cretinism they suffer from.

This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.

The Ramaphosa Presidency

Can CR save the ANC in 2019?

by Shaun Arendse Executive Committee

The ANC has admitted that they could lose their majority in next year’s national elections. A leaked internal report says the possibility that the ANC will only remain in power in a coalition with other parties is “high”. It does not rule-out being forced out of power and into opposition. The report complains that the number of “loyal” ANC supporters shrinks at every election. Pointing-out what WASP has highlighted before, and the 2016 local elections confirmed, it says, “We [the ANC] face the possibility of losing majority support in most large cities and in much of the economic heartland of South Africa.”


The ANC have been in power for a generation. After 24 years this is the situation facing the poor and the working class: 9.5 million people (36.7% of working-age population) are unemployed; 3.3 million under 24-year olds are not in employment, education or training; 30.4 million people live in poverty on R992 or less per month; the richest 1% of the population owns 71% of wealth and the poorest 60% only 7%. These statistics are a sanitised description for suffering, brutalised lives and the unfulfilled potential of millions.

 

‘Ramaphoria’

After Zuma’s forced resignation there was a big effort in the media to paint Ramaphosa as SA’s saviour. This was part of a conscious strategy by the ruling class. They wanted to reassure the imperialist countries that the corruption of the Zuma years would not threaten their investments through its damage to public finances. They also hoped to defuse some of the burning anger and frustration amongst poor, working class and even middle class people by channelling feelings of relief into the idea that “things will be better now”. But better for who?

The class character of Ramaphosa’s government is already beyond doubt – it is a bosses’ government through to its bone marrow. Ramaphosa’s first budget ensured that the poor and the working class will pay the main price for capitalism’s failures made worse by the disasters of the Zuma years. Government spending, including on school infrastructure, informal settlement upgrades and road development, will be cut by R85.7 billion over the next three years. But corporate tax on the profits of big business was left unchanged.

Instead Value Added Tax (VAT – a ‘sales tax’ on every purchase made in SA) is being increased by 1%. In an attempt to portray the budget as pro-poor, government has invited proposals for extending the range of commodities on which VAT is not levied (charged) beyond the 19 exempt basic food items, such as bread, milk, pap, mealies and eggs. But VAT applies to all goods and services, including administered prices like electricity. This increase will still hit the pockets of the poor hardest. In addition the fuel levy increase will lead to ever-rising market-related price increases resulting from higher transport cost. These costs will be passed on to consumers including on the VAT-exempt basic goods. Even some of the tax increases on so-called ‘luxury’goods will hurt the poorest – in the 21st century can a cell phone be considered a ‘luxury’? Good luck finding a job without one!

But more revealing than anything else of the continuity in character of Ramaphosa’s government are the amendments to labour laws. Proposed under Zuma’s presidency and set to become law under Ramaphosa’s, these amendments will increase the powers of the capitalist state over trade unions and make it harder for workers to defend themselves by going on strike. There is no greater proof of “whose side” Ramaphosa is on than his willingness to disarm workers and empower their class enemy – the bosses.

Plans to introduce a National Minimum Wage, masterminded by Ramaphosa when still deputy-president, should have been a pass book designating him as a‘champion of the poor’. But the campaign by the Saftu federation has upset this. It forced Ramaphosa to admit that the new minimum wage is not a living wage.

 

Anti-corruption

Even so, many will be watching Ramaphosa’s ‘clean-up’ of the state-owned companies – PRASA, Eskom, and Transnet etc. – with some enthusiasm. It is satisfying to see the Guptas on the run and entire boards of Zuma’s cronies dismissed. The ANC government itself estimates that Zuma-era corruption looted R100 billion from the ‘public purse’ via these companies.

But even if corruption is completely ended the parastatals will still not benefit the poor and working class in the main. Gordhan admitted this recently in a speech in parliament. He said their role was “reducing the cost structure in the economy so that other economic players become more efficient and competitive.” This can only mean the big businesses and multinationals.

A ‘clean-up’ of the state-owned companies in the interests of the working class would start by ending the regime of tenders and insourcing all workers on a living wage. It would extend the scale of public ownership across the economy so that the benefits the parastatals bring do not remain in the pockets of the bosses but benefit all of society. This would require a regime of workers’ control to replace the undemocratic appointees of the capitalist politicians. This will not happen under Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa’s policies are in complete continuity with the ANC’s commitment to neo-liberal capitalist policies introduced decisively from 1996. If neo-liberal policies could not fix unemployment, poverty and inequality over the past 24 years, why would they do so now? The working class can expect nothing different under the Ramaphosa presidency.

 

Factional struggle

Ramaphosa was able to move against Zuma fairly quickly. But as early as his post-Zuma cabinet reshuffle it became clear that he did not have unlimited room for manoeuvre. Whilst some of Zuma’s worst cabinet cronies were moved to different departments – for example Malusi Gigaba and Bathabile Dlamini – they still remained ministers.

But it has been the explosive developments in the North West from mid-April that have most sharply revealed the depth of the rot in the ANC. Government administration under Gupta-linked premier, Supra Mahumapelo, had virtually collapsed because of widespread corruption and out-of-control looting. This led to Ramaphosa’s unprecedented step of placing the entire province under the administration of national government.

The North West is not an isolated example. At local level 87 municipalities across the country (31% of the total) are classified as “dysfunctional” or “distressed”. Only 7% are classified as “well-functioning”! Corruption is the major driver of local government break-down. In KZN, the continuation of ANC political murders (24 since the start of 2016) is another extreme symptom of the rot. All of this raises a serious question about the viability of the ANC across whole swathes of the country as anything more than a looting machine for politically connected gangsters. Mahumapelo eventually resigned. But he remains ANC chairperson. The very fact that Ramaphosa had to use his position as state president to force the issue by suspending the North West government indicates a growing deadlock between the factions within the ANC.

Mahumapelo’s defiant game of resigning, ‘un-resigning’ and then ‘retiring’ was a sign of desperation. It almost certainly represents the new mind-set of the whole Zuma-clique. So whilst the Zuma-clique has been pushed onto the defensive, they are not defeated. Holding on to whatever machinery of government they can whilst avoiding court and prison is the narrow self-interest driving them. They need to consolidate a stronghold from which to defend themselves and launch a counter-attack to, in Ace Magashule’s words, “get our ANC back in five years”. The outcome of the tightly controlled Free State conference in May (though contested) seems to have been a step in the right direction for them.

The struggle for factional dominance will continue to playout throughout the ANC. The threat of orchestrated violence will remain a very real threat as events in the North West have shown. The Zuma-clique does not care if the ANC is stamped into the dust in the 2019 elections as a result. This takes the factional struggle into increasingly unpredictable and unstable territory.

 

2019

The course of the factional struggle will have an important effect on the ANC’s 2019 performance. It is already taking its toll. The inability of Ramaphosa to deal a decisive knock-out blow to the pro-Zuma faction has prevented him from taking advantage of ‘Ramaphoria’ and the disarray in the DA by calling an early election as some commentators speculated he might. To do so now could strengthen his factional enemies through their control, especially in the provinces, of nominations for ANC candidate lists.

The DA’s suicidal behaviour around the ‘sacking’ of Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille and the internal backlash against Maimane’s Freedom Day speech mentioning ‘white privilege’ will have confirmed in the eyes of many black voters that the party is an ‘old white boys club’. There could be a certain swing back towards the ANC from a section of the black middle class which flirted with the DA under Zuma.

Likewise, a section of the white middle class could be persuaded to vote for a ‘Ramaphosa ANC’. They would be voting for the man and not his party in the hope that his presidency can guarantee the economic stability they crave. Reflecting this, former apartheid-president De Klerk has endorsed Ramaphosa, saying he, “understands business, he understands the economy, and he is committed to achieving economic growth”. However, if Ramaphosa is unable to deliver at least a convincing appearance of victory in the ANC’s internal factional struggle his attractiveness to the middle class – both black and white – will be greatly reduced.

High levels of voter abstention among the poor, young people and the working class skews election after election and will likely do so again in 2019. Around 16 million people did not vote in the 2014 elections. In that sense the ANC lost its majority long ago – they ‘won’ 2014 with the votes of 35% of the eligible population. Given all of this, it is possible that the ANC could scrape the 50% + 1 needed to remain in government after 2019. This would not be a sign of the ANC’s strength but the opposite. Another ‘victory’ on a further reduced social base will only sharpen class contradictions and further prepare the ground for social explosions.

 

Coalition

But if the ANC does fall below 50% the EFF leadership stands ready to assist. They have positioned themselves as a future ANC coalition partner. At Malema’s request there have been talks so that the two parties can “find each other”. With Zuma gone and the ANC formally backing land expropriation without compensation, Malema claims that the conditions for forming a coalition, such as after the 2016 elections, have mostly been met.

This just shows how superficial the EFF’s conditions were. Under Ramaphosa nothing has changed on the ground for millions of poor and working class people and nor will it. But for the EFF leadership the ANC is now sufficiently ‘different’ for them to change their attitude. This is entirely consistent with the analysis that WASP has made of the EFF since they entered parliament – theirs is not a struggle against capitalism, of which Ramaphosa is a near-perfect representative, but a struggle for control of the capitalist state.

At Winnie Mandela’s funeral, Ramaphosa ‘reached-out’ to the EFF in his speech. If he handles the presentation of land expropriation carefully he can provide the EFF with convincing ‘radical’ arguments to enter a coalition – ‘black solidarity’ to return the land to people against the racist white minority. Even so, in the run-up to 2019 the EFF will have to blow hot one day, and cold the next, on the ANC. They need to ensure the ANC falls below 50% and maximise their own votes to strengthen their bargaining position. At the same time they must be careful to leave themselves room to manoeuvre so that their embrace of the ANC the day after the election is not too obviously hypocritical and opportunistic as it was when they installed the DA in power in Tshwane, Joburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

 

Vacuum

All of this underlines the huge political vacuum that exists. All of the parties in parliament support capitalism. Imagine the impact that a party with a bold socialist programme for a struggle to fundamentally transform society could have. Ending the cynical  ‘window dressing’ measures of the capitalist politicians could inspire the 16 million ‘abstainers’; it could give another option to those still voting ANC because there is no convincing alternative; it could provide a genuinely radical programme to those willing to give the EFF’s rhetoric the benefit of the doubt.

The success of Saftu’s 25 April strike gave a small taste of what is possible. The turnout clearly scared the leaders of the ANC. If it were not for Saftu’s action, both the LRA and amendments and the minimum wage would have become law without a whisper of protest. The Workers and Socialist Party played an important role within Saftu in ensuring the action went ahead. Imagine if this was repeated on every issue. We could expose all the lies of the bosses and their politicians, linked to a mass movement fighting for a clear socialist alternative. This possibility should make Saftu leaders’ and members’ mouth’s water.

The capitalist class is carefully examining the different scenarios that could arise from 2019 and what they would need to do in each one to stabilise their control of society. Let our class answer this with our own preparations. Our class needs a socialist mass workers party. As a step toward its creation we call on Saftu to take the lead in convening an assembly for working class unity. This could bring together representatives of workers, trade unions, working class communities, young people and students to unite the vast number of struggles into a united political movement to challenge the bosses for control of society.

An edited version of this article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.

Israeli state massacres Palestinians

Trump dangerously raises tensions in region

Taken from the editorial of The Socialist (Issue 995), newspaper of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)

Picture: CWI members protest in Haifa, Israel

Around the world people have watched in horror at the unfolding violence perpetrated by the Israeli state against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Sixty were killed on 14 May alone, during protests against the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


More demonstrations took place on 15 May, marking the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) – the forcing out of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes 70 years ago, when Israel was founded.

The moving of the US embassy is just one of many provocative moves by Trump in the Middle East, where tensions are escalating on various fronts.

Trump’s unilateral repudiation of the Iranian nuclear de-escalation deal has plunged the Middle East into a serious crisis. Like a pyromaniac, he has poured oil on an already inflamed situation with Syria and neighbouring countries already devastated by a war that has lasted longer than World War One.

In its wake, new multifaceted wars and conflicts have broken out. On top of this, the recent Israeli missile strikes on Iranian forces in Syria could be a harbinger of a new war, initially between Israel and Iran/Syria but possibly leading to a new generalised regional conflagration.

There could also be ‘blowback’ for Europe with a new wave of refugees seeking safety in Europe as well as further terrorist outrages, which could spill over into the US itself.

Trump claims that in ripping up the current agreement this will end the threat of Iran “ever acquiring nuclear weapons”. However, the outcome could be the exact opposite: the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and others, such as Saudi Arabia, in response to this.

The Guardian wrote: “Mr Trump’s invective relies on assertions that reinforce prejudices but have no basis in truth.” It completely refutes the claim that Iran was on the “cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons”.

The deal did allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium but “it neither allowed nor [was it] technically able to use this process to produce weapons grade uranium”. Moreover, under the agreement Iran could not reprocess plutonium as an “alternative path to a nuclear explosive”. The Guardian concluded that the Trump speech was “estranged from the truth”; a polite way of saying it was a pack of lies.

This latest example of overbearing arrogance by Trump representing US imperialism was preceded by an even further shift towards the right in his government, with the inclusion of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and particularly the Cold War warrior John Bolton who served in George W Bush’s administration. A long-term neoconservative, he played a prominent and disastrous role in the invasion of Iraq. His proposal to bomb Tehran was even too much for Bush to contemplate!

In 2000 Bolton said, “If I were redoing the UN Security Council today, I’d have one permanent member (the US) because that’s the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world.” The US, through Bolton, is prepared to put the rest of the world on “rations” – as Trump’s economic trade war against rival powers show. This in turn threatens a generalised tit-for-tat and a world trade war. Moreover, the repercussions of military action can have further negative economic fallout.

The deranged Bolton’s foreign policy goes beyond even Trump’s ‘America first’ policy. It is a naked assertion of ‘American alone’, a return to US unilateralism that was undermined by the failure of previous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US met with ferocious mass resistance worldwide, which had an effect on some governments like Germany and France who were compelled to oppose the US. But Trump is prepared to ignore French president Macron, whose grovelling pleas in Washington went down like a lead balloon in France, with his ratings dropping. Chancellor Merkel in Germany, even Boris Johnson and the squeaks of ‘criticism’ emanating from Theresa May have all been pushed aside.

 

Regime change in Tehran

This is because Trump and Bolton’s ultimate aim is regime change in Tehran, not through military intervention, but savage sanctions which would bring in a new government.

Even the few military generals left in the Trump administration – like Defence Secretary General Mattis, who have been a ‘moderating influence’ on Trump – opposed this strategy which could have “unforeseen consequences” for the US.

They correctly believed that the nuclear agreement with Iran was working. They tried but failed to hold back Trump from feeding the inferno which he has already started.

Even before his latest outrage Trump had stoked up the rage of the Palestinians with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Already at boiling point, their fury was then intensified, when according to Patrick Cockburn, “Israeli and American flags will flutter in the streets and there will be 150 giant billboards with the face of Mr Trump on them”. At the same time tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought to once more try and break through the fence surrounding Gaza, the “biggest open-air prison in the world”, with a large number of protesters killed by Israeli forces.
Trump and the neoconservatives that surround him may not score a quick and easy victory, as they imagine. Before his threats, the Islamic hardliners in Iran, and even the ‘reformist’ Rouhani government, faced a mass revolt, not least from the working class which has begun to reassert itself through strikes. There has also been continued open defiance on issues such as the refusal of women to compulsorily wear the hijab.

However, Trump’s actions are more likely in the short term to cement support for the status quo. This could push back for a time the movement for an immediate challenge to the Islamic regime through an independent movement of the working class and poor masses.

Even the intensification of sanctions – which undoubtedly would aggravate the already desperate economic conditions of the Iranian masses – would not automatically be blamed on the regime but the threat posed from outside.

The memory of its war with Iraq is seared into the memory of the Iranian people. British and US imperialism supported Saddam’s invasion of Iran, which resulted in terrible suffering on both sides. 300,000 Iranians were killed and countless maimed and injured.

No outside power will be capable of launching such an attack now. But it is possible that Israel – which has in the past bombed alleged nuclear sites in Iran – could at the behest of Trump and the US launch similar but more serious bombings on identified nuclear sites.

 

“Devastating sanctions”

The Trump regime is threatening “devastating sanctions” against those such as the European powers who have said they will continue the treaty. There is no honour among thieves. Naked cash calculation – the amount of profit, loot, they can extract – along with their strategic interests is what matters and not the interests of the people of the region.

Look at the double dealing of Putin who had a cosy meeting, a friendly chat with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu in Moscow, while Israeli jets were bombing the military positions of his ‘allies’ Iran and President Assad’s Syria!

This demonstrates unequivocally that the working masses in the Middle East and elsewhere can only rely on their own forces, and their brothers and sisters worldwide, to show a way out of the nightmare in the region created by capitalism and imperialism.

They must organise and strengthen their own organisations, with class solutions to the problems of each country and the region as a whole.

The current elections in Iraq demonstrate that the masses are yearning for an end to sectarian-based parties, which have only served to compound the enormous problems created by capitalism and imperialism through the monstrous military interventions which have taken place.

The brutal assertion of US interests and the threat of economic retribution will intensify the inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and others, China for instance, which has a considerable amount of trade with Iran, particularly oil.

The US believes that its economic and particularly banking dominance will bring any opposition to heel. But that is unlikely in the short term because sanctions can take a long time to be effective. The US can face economic damage as those who are attacked take counter-measures.

The Iranian regime has declared that if the agreement remains intact they will continue support it. This is on condition that the original non-US signatories also stick by it.

Undoubtedly true to his word, Trump will attempt to impose “devastating sanctions” to those who continue to support and implement the deal.

No interference by outside powers: let the peoples of each country and the region decide their own fate, with the support and encouragement of the world working class and labour movement.

Additionally, the working class and the youth worldwide should raise their voices and prepare a new mass anti-war movement to help to thwart the arrogant and dictatorial actions of Trump, Saudi Arabia and Israel. This can help to prepare a movement in the Middle East which, like a giant broom, can sweep all the capitalists and imperialists, the sheiks, princes and sectarian politicians from the stage of history.

Defend the right to strike! Scrap the LRA amendments

* Support Saftu’s action on 25 April

* Unite the working class in a campaign of rolling-mass actions

* Capitalist parties will give us laws for the bosses – workers’ need their own party

Download pamphlet here.

The bosses’ know that they are in a war with the working class. That is why they are upgrading their weapons. They want to make it harder for workers to defend themselves from exploitation, job losses and poverty pay by going on strike. For this the bosses need to undermine workers’ control in the workers’ movement and in its place increase the powers of the capitalist state over the trade unions. That is the essence of the changes the government plans to make to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) on their behalf.


Workers will no longer be allowed to decide how democratic decisions are taken in their own organisations. Even when workers are perfectly happy with a show of hands to start a strike, the new amendments will require secret strike ballots with unions required to keep the records for three years. There will be new rules for issuing strike notices to employers which include notifying them of the time and date that the strike will begin. This will allow the bosses to plan and stop strikes from being effective. New picketing rules will require the boss to agree about picket line rules. When agreement cannot be reached (which will always be the case!) an unelected commissioner can step in and impose picketing rules on the union.

Finally, the amendments will allow the Director of the CCMA or the Minister of Labour to create an “advisory arbitration panel” to impose strike settlements. They can do this if they believe the strike may become violent, damage property or affect “the normal, social and economic functioning of the community or society”. The bosses’ propaganda already claims this about every strike! Now their biased point of view will be given legal standing.

There is nothing original in these amendments. Internationally, they are “best practice” for every neo-liberal capitalist government. The ANC is simply catching up with itself.

 

What lies behind this attack?

There is no end in sight to the crisis of the capitalist profit system. The economy is stagnant. Big business will not invest its huge wealth to create jobs or raise wages – leaving us stuck with mass unemployment and poverty. The anger of the working class, the poor and unemployed is ready to boil over. In places it already is. Just in the past week the national bus strike and the Mahikeng community uprising against corruption have shown the huge frustration in society. This terrifies the ruling capitalist class. They want to prepare better weapons now because they know they urgently need them to stay in control of the economy and society.

The trade union movement remains the biggest potential threat to capitalism.  Until recently the bosses were able to rely on the ANC’s dominance over the Cosatu leadership to keep the working class under control. But Cosatu has suffered serious splits and lost its dominant position in the workers’ movement. It is also unclear if the ANC will keep their majority in next year’s elections. The old framework of bosses’ control has weakened.

The ruling capitalist class needs something more decisive to rely on. They understand that when the class struggle intensifies the corrupt and cowardly trade union leaders they rely on now will be swept aside. The long-stifled democratic structures of the workers’ movement could start to reflect the wish of a radicalised working class for fundamental change. Most dangerously for the ruling class the trade unions can organise this mood into a mass struggle.

To limit this and to try and stay in control it is better for the ruling class to strengthen the powers of unelected judges and commissioners over the trade unions. They calculate that in ‘normal’ times this will give them a way of ‘lowering the temperature’ of workers’ struggles. It will also strengthen their hold over conservative trade union leaders who will be able to hide behind the amended laws as an excuse for doing nothing. When this fails and workers’ struggle ‘crosses the line’, the bosses will be able to call on the armed power of the capitalist state in defence of ‘law and order’.

 

Way forward

The 25 April strike organised by the new Saftu trade union federation is an important start to the campaign against the LRA amendments. The Workers and Socialist Party played an important role in campaigning for the action to go ahead. The strike must be used as a platform to reach-out to the workers in every union and federation. The members of the Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa federations will be extremely angry that their leaders have gone along with this attack. Open and democratic co-ordinating committees should be established to lay the basis for a mass united campaign of rolling mass action until the amendments are scrapped.

The campaign must not end if the amendments become law. If this happens the entire workers’ movement must be prepared for a campaign of defiance to make the new laws unenforceable.

 

Open political front

The LRA amendments were proposed, developed and gazetted under Zuma’s ANC government and will become law under Ramaphosa’s. The Democratic Alliance supports the amendments. They only wish they were tougher! No party in parliament has championed opposition to the amendments. This is because there is no party in parliament that represents workers’ interests. These parties are all competing with each other to take over the management of capitalism which will always require weapons to attack workers.

The LRA amendments underline more than ever that the workers’ movement requires a ‘political arm’ – a socialist mass workers party. It would allow us to open another front in our struggle with the bosses. Workers’ MPs – strictly under the democratic control of workers – could use their platform to explain the real calculations of the bosses which lie behind the amendments. They could break the unchallenged lie that the amendments are to deal with “violent strikes” and expose the real views of the capitalist parties expressed in the closed parliamentary committees. This would be important assistance to the central task of building a mass movement.

These attacks show that under capitalism workers’ cannot rely on ‘the law’ or ‘the constitution’ to defend their rights. We live in a capitalist democracy where the influence of the bosses will always remain dominant because they own and control the economy. To defend capitalism the ruling class has no choice but to limit democracy and the rights of workers. All the legal gains of workers are temporary as long as capitalism exists – they can only be guaranteed in a socialist society where the capitalist classes’ control of the economy is ended, removing the source of the class struggle that requires the minority to hold the majority in chains.