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Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee
The 2019 general elections will be seen, in time, as the most important since the advent of democracy. For the first time since 1994, less than half of the voting age population cast their ballots. There are 35.8 million eligible voters. Of these 26.8 million are on the voters roll. In other words approximately 9 million are not registered. Only 65.9% of registered voters went to the polls. That means that a full 18 million (9 million unregistered plus 9 million registered non-voters) did not to vote. In addition there were a quarter-of-a-million spoilt ballots.
All 14 parties that managed to get seats are in parliament with the active electoral support of only 49.8% of the voting age population. This represents if not a resounding rejection of the entire political establishment, then at least a profound disillusionment with it. Had the non-voters all voted for a single different party, their vote would have exceeded those of all 48 parties who contested these elections combined.
This should form the basis for an analysis of the actual votes cast and their distribution amongst the parties. The post election narrative has been dominated by the ANC and DA’s losses on the one hand, and the EFF’s gains on the other. Whilst the two main parties of capital are in mourning over their results, the EFF is celebrating. In reality the message sent by the masses in these elections is essentially the same for all parties – that not one of them inspires hope of a solution to the country’s deep economic, social and political crisis.
The ANC’s 10 million votes may still seem impressive as a number especially by comparison to their nearest rival, the DA, a full 37% behind. Following the ANC’s 62% vote in 2014, then ANC secretary general secretary, Gwede Mantashe, bemoaned the reaction to the ANC vote. In any other country, 62% would have been seen as a landslide; in SA it is regarded as a defeat he bleated.
But it is the direction in which the arrow is pointing for both the ruling ANC’s and the official opposition DA’s electoral fortunes that is the key question. The ruling ANC’s vote fell below 60%, to 57% – its lowest vote since 1994. In absolute numbers the ANC’s lost 1.4 million votes, 19 parliamentary seats, from the 11 million votes and 249 seats they won in 2014.
More ominously for the ANC’s future, it held on to control of Gauteng, the country’s economic hub and most populous province, by the skin of its teeth, securing a mere 50.1%. The loss of Gauteng, the province carrying the greatest political specific weight, would have felt like a defeat. It would have placed on the near horizon, as soon as the next local government elections in 2021, and almost certainly in the next general elections in 2024, the likelihood of the ANC’s national vote falling below 50%.
This disconnect from political reality revealed in Mantashe’s 2014 remarks, were strikingly absent in the ANC leadership’s reaction to its 2019 results. Sunday Times columnist Ranjeni Munusamy(19/05/19) reports that “Ramaphosa arrived at the election results ceremony on 11 May looking like his dog had died rather than the person who had just rescued his party from having to share power in order to govern.” As if awakened from a nightmare in which they had seen the spectre of defeat, the ANC leadership wiped the sweat off of their collective forehead. The necessity for coalition government involving the hated DA and the feared EFF had been avoided.
ANC Head of Elections, Fikile Mbalula expressed the entire leadership’s sigh of relief with the statement that, without Cyril Ramaphosa as its presidential candidate, the ANC would have fallen to as low as 40%. That ANC secretary general Ace Magashule took advantage of this probable exaggeration of the extent to which the ANC vote might have fallen, found it necessary to contradict Mbalula publicly, is a case of protesting too much. A miss would have been as good as a mile whether it would have been 40% or 49.9%. Even the most boneheaded of Zuma loyalists like Ace’s deputy, Jesse Duarte, was compelled to acknowledge that the voters had given the ANC a stern warning.
Throughout the election campaign, Ramaphosa had polled consistently higher than his own party. This is what most likely accounts for one of many significant features of these elections: that ANC voters split their ballots between provincial and national. The ANC lost votes in every single province as its voters cast their ballots for other parties there, but for the ANC nationally. These elections were conducted in this sense as a virtual presidential poll. Far more popular as an individual leader than his own party, Ramaphosa was able to act as locomotive to drag the ANC across the line to once more be able to form a government on its own.
These results confirmed the trend, evident since 2009, but underlined especially by the ANC’s electoral decline in the 2016 local government elections, when its national tally fell from the 62% in the 2014 general elections to 54%. Most dramatically, it lost control of three metros – Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane, leaving it out of power in four out of the country’s eight metros.
Just how fortunate the ANC was to emerge with the biggest vote is underlined by the fact that Ramaphosa’s accession to the presidency of the country was made possible by his victory at the ANC’s 54th elective conference in 2018 by the razor-thin margin of 179 votes. Those 179 votes are widely accepted as having been gifted to him by then Mpumalanga provincial premier and now the country’s deputy president, David Mabuza, in a last-minute betrayal of his pro-Zuma allies in the so-called Premier League of corrupt ANC provincial barons.
Those 179 votes are worth, in hindsight, the 7.6% that assured the ANC victory. But for Mabuza’s double cross, the ANC would have faced almost certain defeat under Zuma’s anointed successor, his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The ANC did not so much win these elections as survive them. The ANC’s results show that its political capital as the party of liberation is close to exhaustion.
The Democratic Alliance
The DA has held on to its position as the official opposition despite its decline from 22% in 2014 to 20% in 2019. But as we pointed out after the 2016 local government elections, the DA’s 2014 results represented an electoral ceiling. Believing its own propaganda, the DA portrayed its control of the metros of the commercial capital Johannesburg, the political capital Tshwane (Pretoria) and the politically symbolic Nelson Mandel Bay, giving it control, alongside Cape Town of half of the country’s most important metros, as sign of momentum. They set themselves the target of taking over the province of Gauteng and possibly the Northern Cape. But in 2019 they failed to extend their provincial electoral power beyond the Western Cape benefitting even there from the ANC’s chronic electoral crisis.
The reality is that they took control of the three additional metros through a deal with the EFF in what was in fact a coalition of losers. The DA has paid a heavy price for a deal that is seen as one in which it traded its “anti-corruption clean government” claims for the trappings of office with the EFF, a party with a corrupt leadership who installed DA mayors for access to lucrative local government tenders.
The DA’s hypocrisy in stridently denouncing the highly emotive policy of expropriation of land without compensation (EWC) that the EFF has forced on the ANC as official government policy, drained it of credibility in the eyes of white voters, fearing that EWC would result in land expropriation. Astonishingly, one of the DA’s election slogans was “Vote DA to stop the EFF and the ANC”! DA voters deserted the party, voting instead for the white nationalist right wing Freedom Front+ whose promises to defend their land rang much more true. The appearance of momentum towards their target of 30% of the national vote in 2019, translated instead to 20%, not only 10% short of its ambitions, but also the first electoral decline since 1994.
This result has dealt a body blow to the DA’s ambitions to be an electoral alternative to the ANC as the main party of capital. Its electoral decline has plunged the party into a leadership crisis as this loss occurred under the watch of its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane. A vacuous individual unable to shake off the impression that he is a black puppet of a white controlled party, Maimane’s installation as leader after the 2014 elections failed to attract black voters, its tally increasing by a miserable 0.4%.
The EFF is of course triumphantly portraying its increase from 6% in 2014 to 10% in 2019. Its 1.8 million votes have boosted its seats to 44 from 25 in 2014 when it first contested. It is now the official opposition in three provinces usually dominated by the ANC, namely North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
A closer examination of the EFF’s votes, however, shows its 700,000 increase does not translate into momentum. It may have doubled its percentage compared to 2014, but it is up from 2016 by only 2 percentage points. Even in those provinces where it is now the official opposition, it is not in a position to form a coalition with other opposition parties despite the ANC’s decline. The EFF has benefitted much more from the ANC’s electoral travails than its own momentum. In an election where ANC voters continued, as they did in 2014, and 2016, to vote for opposition parties not out of conviction but to punish the ANC, the EFF has been in the hands of many voters no more than a whip to beat the ruling party than as a serious alternative.
Portrayed as the party of the youth, it has failed to enthuse the youth to register or, if they were registered, to vote. 6 million voters under the age of 30 did not vote. Statistics SA puts the total eligible voters aged 18-19, at 1.8 million. But just 341,186 — 19% — registered for the election. The impact of the astounding corruption allegations against the EFF leadership revealed in the run up to the elections, especially in the industrial scale looting of municipalities through the Venda Building Society, have yet to be felt. The prosecutions that will follow under Ramaphosa’s clean-up campaign, will erode the EFF’s votes in the future. The EFF’s election manifesto revealed a marked shift to the right in an increasingly pro-capitalist direction that has attracted the cautious welcome of capitalist commentators. The EFF’s announcement of its willingness to enter into coalitions with the major parties, will come to haunt it in the future.
The 2019 elections have confirmed what WASP has pointed out before: that there is a simultaneous crisis of political representation for both the ruling class as well as the working class. The ANC’s factional civil war is poised to intensify in the ANC government’s 6th term. Ramaphosa, who benefitted from unprecedented levels of capitalist media support both in SA and internationally, can continue his anti-corruption crusade only by further inflaming factional tensions that hardly abated during the election campaign. At stake for the Zuma faction is imprisonment for corruption. As Zuma’s defiant insistence that he has done nothing wrong, as he faces reinstated corruption charges shows, his faction will not resign themselves to their fate without a fight.
The ANC’s 57% is probably just enough to enable Ramaphosa to be portrayed as the first ANC leader to reverse its fifteen year electoral decline, raising its vote from the 2016 54% vote. This as well as the measures he has taken to dismiss corrupt ministers before the elections, the strengthening of state institutions by the appointment of untainted individuals, the setting up of multiple commissions of inquiry into corruption that enjoyed wall to wall live coverage in the media, has given him the upper hand in the factional struggle… for now. But the hostilities in the factional war of attrition will continue in the form of “lawfare” as investigations and possible prosecutions maintain the lines of division. The referral of the ANC’s list of parliamentary candidates back to the Integrity Commission after it had been compiled by the branches, is but one of the arenas over which factional clashes will break out. Already, following the integrity Commission’s recommendations that those implicated in corruption should recuse themselves, has led to deputy president designate Mabuza requesting that his swearing in be delayed pending and appearance before it.
Although the Zuma faction’s hands are stayed at present, rumours persist that they intend recalling him at the ANC’s National General Council (the highest decision making bodies in between conferences) next year, or at its next conference in 2022. Such an attempt, though unlikely, would in all likelihood split the ANC. Ramaphosa’s security of presidential tenure thus depends on the fear of mutually assured destruction of the ANC that would follow.
It is for this reason that the more far sighted strategists, exasperated at the crass incompetence of the entire DA leadership, have urged it to change its focus from Ramaphosa and the ANC in favour of preparing itself to be a responsible partner in a future government of national unity with the ANC to save capitalism.
These elections have confirmed at the same time the enormous crisis of leadership for the working class. This was accentuated by the dismal performance of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party led by National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) secretary general, Ivin Jim. Erasing form history WASP’s contestation of the 2014 elections, it claimed to be the first genuine ”revolutionary socialist” party to contest elections in SA. Supported by a myriad of small left forces and individuals, who spent far too much attacking WASP as “reformist”, as well as left-of centre media commentators, they swallowed their own propaganda about its base in the 300,000 Numsa.
Its 24,000 votes, a mere 4,000 votes higher than its probably inflated 20,000 membership claims, after a campaign funded by American Carribean billionaire Roy Singham (funder of one of India’s “Communist” parties) was a humiliation. Far more importantly, it was an emphatic rejection of a party that campaigned in the name of Numsa, by Numsa members themselves. That they believed that the usurpation of the union’s name would guarantee them the votes of its members is itself a reflection of a contemptuous attitude towards the working class. This, the Numsa members have stated emphatically, is not the party they had in mind when they convened a special national congress in 2013 and resolved to create a workers party. Both what the Numsa leadership failed to do in their 2013 Special National Congress – launch a mass workers party at the time of the most favorable prospects for it following the Marikana massacre – and what they actually did in 2019, launching a party separately from and against the Saftu WCS summit process, had the same effect. It cut across the process of the establishment of a genuine mass workers party unifying the working class. Into the vacuum on the left this created, the EFF has stepped. For this the Numsa leadership grouping behind the SRWP must take full responsibility.
Predictably the leadership has blamed the immaturity of the working class which “was not ready”. They have made derisory claims of vote rigging, joining a chorus of such reactionary outfits like Black First Land First in doing so. WASP called for a critical vote for the SRWP not out of any illusions in this neo-Stalinist party, but to diminish the vote of the capitalist parties.
Offensive being prepared against the working class
The once mighty but now thoroughly emasculated Congress of SA Trade Unions, to its eternal shame, alongside the SACP, is supporting the billionaire ‘butcher of Marikana’. Cosatu denounced the general strike Saftu called on 25 April last year, to oppose legislation aimed at crippling the right to strike and picket.
Ramaphosa’s accession to the presidency represents the fulfillment of a childhood dream for him personally. But his tenure will turn into a nightmare. He comes to power against the background of the worst economic crisis in the post-apartheid period. An unreconstructed neo-liberal capitalist, and darling of capital in SA and internationally, he is poised to intensify the class war against the working class starting with raising VAT for the first time since the end of apartheid even before the elections.
After years of prevarication, the ANC has now decided to bite the bullet of privatisation of Eskom (the biggest electricity entity in the world) and, in the words of capitalist analysts baying for the blood of the “bloated public sector” workers, to “slay the dragon” of the public sector wage bill with plans to retrench over 30,000 workers. A number of unions, including Numsa are facing increasing hostile scrutiny by the Registrar of the Department of Labour. The Association of Mining and Construction Union that came to prominence after the mass exodus of mineworkers from the National Union of Mineworkers in the wake of the Marikana massacre is facing threats of deregistration.
Ramaphosa comes to power at a time when strikes are at the highest levels since Department of Labour records began. Service delivery protests have made SA the protest capital in the world with the highest number of protest per capital globally. Protest continued throughout the entire election, escalating as polling day approached including on Election Day itself.
The economy shall have barely avoided a recession in the first half of 2019, but faces growth prospects of no more than 0.8% year on year, the same level as 2018. The 5.4% per annual growth required for ten years consecutively calculated by the National Development Plan Commission Ramaphosa himself chaired, merely to eradicate extreme poverty, is a pipe dream. The savage austerity demanded by the rating agencies will only aggravate an already dire situation with unemployment edging towards 10 million (40%) in what the World Bank has officially designated the most unequal society on the planet.
Towards a mass workers party on a socialist programme
The real mood of the masses was reflected amongst both those who voted and those which did not, is reflected in these protests and strikes; whether by staying away from the polls or casting their vote their “vote” amounted “none of the above”.
It is now a year since the labour movement took potentially its most important stride forward in the post-apartheid era through the Working Class Summit convened by the SA Federation of Trade Unions in May 2018. It brought together over a thousand delegates representing 147 community organisations, trade union affiliates and student groupings. It adopted a resolution to establish a mass workers party on a socialist programme. WASP played an important role in making this possible and will throw its energy into remedying its organisational, ideological and political weaknesses.
These elections reflect the urgent need for such a party to unify the working class around a common platform and programme of action across all the main theaters of struggle in the workplace, communities, and education institutions. Thrust onto its agenda immediately is the offensive the Ramaphosa administration has signaled. It must be a party of mass action which all left formations must support placing their programmes and ideological positions to the masses for them to evaluate and test in action. This will be the best tribute that can be paid to the immortal martyrs of Marikana who paid in blood to lay the foundations for the reclamation of the proletariat’s class and political independence – the creation of a mass workers party on a socialist programme.
For a socialist programme of militant struggle – time for workers to take the offensive against the bosses’ attacks
May Day Statement
Workers are under attack by the bosses and the politicians that defend the capitalist profit system. There have been tens of thousands of job losses on top of existing mass unemployment. To boost their profits the bosses will use the new R3,500 poverty-level minimum wage as a wage-ceiling and not a wage-floor. Tax rises, price increases and budget cuts to services are worsening poverty and inequality.
The background to this assault is the crisis of the capitalist economy – here in South Africa and worldwide. The economy is stagnant. The bosses’ battle plan is driven by the need to protect their profits by squeezing workers harder and harder. Defending jobs and fighting for wage rises will meet ever greater resistance.
This is why the right to strike and to picket is being undermined by the ANC government. They want to make it harder for workers to fight back. Now they are threatening to punish the mineworkers for striking by de-registering the AMCU trade union. They want to teach the whole working class a lesson. But workers again and again show their willingness to fight to defend jobs and wages. Strikes and community protests are at record highs.
What will it take to turn the tide on the bosses’ attacks? How can the working class move from the defensive on to the offensive? How do we build a class-independent and united movement of militant, democratic worker-controlled trade unions?
The Workers’ Movement
The potential power of the working class is huge – especially those workers organised in the trade unions. Some pessimists complain that ‘only’ 1 in 4 workers are organised. This is actually amongst the highest in the world! But a simple head-count is the wrong way to view the issue. The key thing is where those workers are organised. They are organised in all of the most decisive sectors of the economy – mining, manufacturing, transport and public services. In other words, the working class organised in the trade unions has enormous social weight. This gives them the potential to lead the vast working class majority of the unemployed, the poor, the unorganised and the youth.
But the trade unions are divided into hostile camps. There are four federations and nearly 200 trade unions. Too often one united bosses’ organisation sits across the table from divided union leaders who see each other as the main enemy. The enormous potential power of a united working class is not focused on the point of attack. Our army is scattered and marching in different directions. There is a crisis of working class leadership.
Saftu is an historic attempt to build a new working class leadership. Its creation reflects a growing mood amongst workers that consciously rejects the poisonous politics of class collaboration – and wants to do something about it. Class collaboration is where ‘leaders’ claim to represent workers interests but in practice defend the right of the bosses to exploit workers. These wrong politics lock Cosatu in its alliance with the ANC. But Saftu is emerging as a new political reference point for struggle. The importance of this has already been demonstrated. If Saftu had not organised the 25 April 2018 strike, the minimum wage and attack on the right to strike would have passed without a whisper of organised protest.
But Saftu is not yet a decisive pole of attraction for the working class. This is reflected in the attitude of the Cosatu membership. In 2012-13 there was a mass movement of mineworkers from the Cosatu-affiliated NUM to the un-affiliated AMCU. But there has not yet been a mass movement of workers from Cosatu to Saftu. Why? We think it is because things are not yet clear to millions of workers. They want to be certain that Saftu is a genuine alternative that can show a clear way forward in struggle. If Saftu is just another rival to their current union – there are plenty of them! – then workers will not be motivated to move. But they are watching to see what Saftu does.
For Saftu to earn its leadership of the organised working class it needs to be armed with a bold socialist programme. This is the only answer to the capitalist economic crisis. The capitalist profit system must be exposed. But socialist rhetoric is not enough. Every corrupt sell-out trade union leader postures as a ‘revolutionary’ and a ‘socialist’. Workers will want to be able to see that Saftu is different. A real socialist programme must be able to guide workers in action.
Economic sabotage by the bosses needs to be exposed and an alternative offered. The trade union principles of democratic workers control must be extended into growing control of the workplace. Workers will not prioritise the interests of CEO salaries and shareholder dividends over the interests of the working class.
- Fight all retrenchments and closures! Demand nationalisation of job shedding big businesses under democratic workers control. If the bosses’ refuse to keep jobs, workers refuse to let them keep their businesses! Organise workplace occupations to enforce nationalisation.
- Workers’ economic planning to end unemployment! Demand the working week is reduced to 30 hours with no cuts in pay. Share out the work with the unemployed. Demand democratic control of hiring and firing and the re-design of shift patterns by workers’ representatives.
- Reject the ANC’s poverty-level minimum wage! Fight for a living wage of R12,500 per month for all full-time workers. Demand a rigorous regime of workplace inspections under the democratic control of workers’ representatives to enforce compliance.
- Expose the bosses’ lies! Abolish so-called ‘business secrets’. Demand that the financial accounts of big business are opened to inspection by workers’ representatives. When the bosses say “we can’t afford it” workers must say “prove it”!
If the bosses and their politicians continue giving the working class the bill for the crisis of their profit system they must be pushed aside – nationalise non-complying big business under democratic workers control.
We call on Saftu members to campaign for the federation and all of its affiliates to adopt a clear socialist programme. Every strike and protest should be politicised around these demands and talked about by Saftu leaders in every media interview.
The bosses will resist these demands ferociously. A socialist programme challenges the very foundation of their system. Private ownership of the economy ‘justifies’ their economic dictatorship and allows them to chase profits at the expense of workers and society. Nationalisation and democratic control by workers’ representatives challenges this. A mass movement is needed.
We call on Saftu to organise its planned two-day strike within the 60 day de-registration ‘notice period’ given to AMCU – i.e. before the end of June. This can be used to appeal to the mineworkers’ to join the strike. In Sudan, protestors are occupying the streets outside the HQ of the military dictatorship demanding that they go. Workers in South Africa should follow this bold example and occupy the streets outside the Department of Labour in Tshwane to demand:
- Hands off the mineworkers! Withdraw the threat to de-register AMCU – the workers’ movement will clean up its own house! Organise workers to demand and defend democratic workers’ control in all trade unions.
- Defend the right to organise and strike! Scrap the LRA amendments. Move on to the offensive with a workers & trade union freedom bill drafted by workers’ representatives – end the bosses’ petty abuses and restrictions on the rights to workplace organisation. Organise a march to parliament to demand it is tabled – and passed! Organised mass defiance of unjust labour laws that prevent workers from defending themselves.
A call must go out that guides workers in how to overcome the organisational divisions within the trade union movement. No genuine trade union leader has anything to fear from workers unity; those that oppose workers’ unity must be exposed.
- Build co-ordinated campaigns of rolling mass action on all issues facing the working class. Build industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite the workers of all federations, unions, and those not members of unions in campaigns of rolling mass action.
The elections next week are dominated by parties and candidates that either assisted the attacks on the working class over the last five years, or just shrugged their shoulders in disinterest. The Zuma-led ANC tabled the LRA amendments; the Ramaphosa-led ANC voted them through. The DA supported them but wanted the attacks to go even further! Where was the EFF’s campaign to defend the right to strike? Not a word. Workers need their own party. This cannot be viewed as an optional ‘side project’. Workers challenge the bosses’ control of the workplaces every day. They must challenge their political control of society too.
On 8 May WASP is calling for a vote for the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP). They at least stand for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society. However, we have serious doubts that the SRWP will be the vehicle for working class unity in the struggles ahead, given its track-record until now (see WASP website). From 9 May we call on the SRWP to support the building of a unifying, democratic and open socialist mass workers party, organised on a federal basis so that the SRWP, WASP and other working class and socialist organisations can affiliate.
- Build working class unity! Support the Saftu-Working Class Summit workers’ party process. Build a unifying, democratic and open socialist mass workers party, organised on a federal basis to unite the struggles of the workplaces, the communities and the youth, as a vital step toward the creation of a mass revolutionary party
National Committee statement
- For a workers vote against all parties of capitalism
- From 9 May all working class and socialist organisations should support building a unifying mass socialist workers party
On 7 April 2019, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) held its three-day inaugural congress. About a thousand delegates attended claiming to represent a membership of 20,000. Many working class activists may heave a sigh of relief. After many false starts and delays, maybe now, a serious trade union-based challenge can offer an alternative to the crisis of capitalism in the upcoming elections and beyond.
Numsa secretary general, Irvin Jim, the SRWP’s first chairperson, says: “The SRWP is the party that fights for the whole of the working class – it grew out of the decision by NUMSA in 2013 after analysing the state of the working class, to build a workers’ party. But the SRWP is not the NUMSA workers’ party. It is not the SAFTU workers’ party. It is for all socialist workers in SAFTU, COSATU, NACTU, FEDUSA, Solidarity.” Is this a serious promise to use the SRWP to build the political unity of the working class? Or is it just rhetoric?
2013-2019 – delays
Precious time was lost following Numsa’s 2013 Special National Congress. The NUMSA leadership argued then that, whilst it had withdrawn support from the ANC, it was up to its members to decide for themselves who to vote for in the 2014 elections. WASP warned that in the absence of a working class alternative, people would vote for opposition parties to punish the ANC.
Using socialist rhetoric, the EFF secured nearly 1.2 million votes, winning 25 seats. The DA achieved 22%, its highest ever vote. But the number of voters abstaining in protest grew to 12 million. By the 2016 local elections the ANC’s 62% majority had declined to 54%, with the loss of three key metros. We pointed out at the time that this was a “thunderous rebuke” by the working class. Most alarmingly for the ANC, these results posed the possibility that it might not secure an outright majority in 2019 and could be forced into a coalition government.
Since then the ANC’s worsening internal crisis is expressed in the continued factional civil war. So alarmed are the strategists of capital that there is a call from their ranks for DA voters to switch to the ANC to strengthen ‘their man’ Ramaphosa. In desperation, the ANC has followed the DA into the sewer of xenophobia to shore up electoral support.
Under the pressure of the capitalist class, the Ramaphosa regime is resolved to present the bill for the ever deepening economic crisis to the working class. The right to strike and picket has been attacked with the support of the class collaborators in the Cosatu and Fedusa leaderships. Emboldened, Ramaphosa is set to proceed with the privatisation of state-owned enterprises starting with the breakup of Eskom.
Through its local government coalitions with the capitalist DA, the EFF has confirmed its reactionary class character. As we predicted after the 2016 elections, it has now announced its willingness to enter into a coalition with the ANC at national level. The EFF has zig-zagged between the warring factions in the ANC as it positions itself to negotiate a place in a possible pro-capitalist coalition. It has thus shifted economic policy to the right.
Whatever its precise configuration, the incoming government will be poised to intensify the attacks on the working class. For the capitalist parties, elections are an attempt to legitimise these attacks. Until now there has been no working class opposition in parliament. The SRWP therefore has entered the electoral stage at a time when the vacuum on the left has been sharpened and the class war is poised for a significant escalation.
The SRWP will of course not win the elections nor is it contesting with this aim. That it was launched officially less than two months before the elections, itself shows a light-minded attitude towards using parliament for mass mobilisation.
In the wake of the Marikana massacre, with the support of the mineworkers’ independent strike committees, WASP was launched as a broad federal formation to build the widest possible unity around a clear revolutionary socialist programme. WASP proposed collaboration with NUMSA and invited it take its place, alongside other formations, in accordance with its numerical and political weight.
On the basis of its 300,000 membership alone, Numsa could have secured at least six seats for working class MPs with a proper campaign. The burning anger over the Marikana massacre meant there was a strong sentiment in favour of a working class alternative. Such a working class-led party would have acted as an electoral pole of attraction for the 67% of Cosatu shop stewards in favour of a workers party, and could even have attracted the support of significant sections of the middle class. Millions of disaffected voters, disillusioned with the existing parties, could have supported it.
More importantly, the workers’ representatives in parliament could have used it as a platform to unite working class communities, students and the organised working class for mass mobilisation against the capitalist ANC government. But the votes that might otherwise have gone to such a party, went instead to the EFF. Throughout the intervening five years, with each twist and turn of the class struggle, WASP has called on the Numsa leadership to act decisively and play its role in helping to fill the working class political vacuum. Had the Numsa leadership made use of the time, matters could have been different in 2019. The Numsa leadership must take full responsibility for this.
Despite this, for the purpose of the 2019 elections, there can be only one place at the barricades of the class struggle on 8 May: against the parties of capitalism. The capitalist parties have never been in deeper crisis. The elections offer the working class the opportunity to accelerate that crisis and make the necessity for a mass working class party even clearer.
The Working Class Summit
WASP supports the processes that commenced at the Working Class Summit (WCS) convened by Saftu in July 2018. The WCS brought together over a thousand delegates from 147 community organisations, Saftu affiliates and student formations. The forces that made up the WCS have many shortcomings. Their ideological levels are uneven and even contradictory ranging from Pan-Africanism to socialism. The social movement organisations present ranged from NGO types to genuine grassroots organisations.
Despite this the WCS was an historic gathering which resolved on the need for a mass workers party based on socialism, reflecting the views of the overwhelming majority in attendance. Debate will continue in the provincial and regional WCS structures that it was agreed to roll out. WASP believes that the WCS process offers the best prospects to build a genuine socialist mass workers party that can unite the broadest possible layers of the working class.
WASP is not contesting the 2019 elections, and with the WCS process requiring more time, we are calling for a vote for the SRWP on 8 May. Of the contesting parties, the SRWP is the only one that has arisen from the organised working class. It is the only party that stands, at least in words, for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.
Our call to vote for the SRWP is, however, a critical one. By this we mean that from 9 May, after the elections, we call upon the SRWP to throw its full weight behind the WCS process to create a mass workers party with a democratic federal character that guarantees all supporting organisations a real say in the formation of the party, its ideology, programme, policies and to be represented on its elected structures.
The SRWP has serious shortcomings ideologically, in its organisational methods and in the democracy of its internal party regime. The SRWP’s early documents cited Marx and Lenin, but also, unfortunately, Stalin and Mao. The distortions of Marxism made by the latter two, which WASP will deal with in more detail in the future, are reflected in the problematic approach of the SRWP leadership. They are clearly still basing themselves on the concepts of the National Democratic Revolution as the “shortest road to socialism” – in reality the Stalinist two-stage theory. This poses not academic, but fundamental questions of strategy, perspectives and organisation. It places a serious question mark over whether the SRWP will act as a force for working class unity after the elections or become an obstacle towards it.
Origins of workers party idea
The history of the idea of a workers party goes back to the beginnings of the modern organised labour movement. It was first alluded to by the president of Cosatu predecessor, the Federation of SA Trade Unions (Fosatu) Joe Foster, in a speech at its 1982 congress. The idea came under vicious SACP attack as a challenge to its self-proclaimed role as the “vanguard” of the working class. At Cosatu’s 1993 congress, Numsa’s resolution calling for the formation of a workers party to challenge the ANC in the historic 1994 elections was defeated.
However by then, through its domination of Cosatu and its affiliates, the SACP had succeeded in barring the way towards the emergence of such a party. Subordinating the independent interests of the working class to those of the aspirant black capitalist organised in the ANC, the SACP captured the Cosatu leadership from birth, imprisoning it in the class collaborationist Tripartite Alliance and commandeering its members to act as the ANC’s electoral mobilisation machine.
Over the next twenty years the idea of a workers party survived amongst only a minority, reflected in Cosatu shop steward political attitude surveys. But support grew as the capitalist character of the ANC-led government became clearer. From a substantial minority of 30% in 1998, support for a workers party had grown to a crushing majority of 67% by 2012. This was even before the Marikana massacre.
Marikana, the workers party and Numsa
In addition to exposing the class character of the ANC as a party of capital, the Marikana massacre resulted in fatal political collateral damage for Cosatu. The credibility of the Tripartite Alliance now lies shattered in the political rubble of the Marikana earthquake. Cosatu’s then biggest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers, suffered a mass exodus. The Cosatu leadership revealed its role as the lieutenants of capital in the labour movement by expelling Numsa for its uncompromising criticism of the ANC, SACP and Cosatu. The Marikana massacre thus lifted the idea of a workers party from the pages of survey questionnaires onto the centre stage of the political arena.
In the entirely new political era now opened, Numsa called a Special National Congress (SNC) in 2013. Its resolutions re-tied the knot of history with the generation of 1993. It resolved to unite the left under a Movement for Socialism (MfS), working class communities under a United Front (UF), and the working class under a workers party.
Unfortunately, in its determination to keep complete control of all three, the Numsa leadership attempted to keep discussions on socialism and a workers party off the agenda. Despite the enthusiastic support of provincial structures across the country the UF was shut down. The Movement for Socialism suffered a similar fate. The MfS conference unanimously supported the establishment of a mass workers party on a socialist programme. A Steering Committee was agreed on to develop a road map towards its establishment. It was never convened.
In the meantime, Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu gave momentum to the formation of a new federation. By 2017, Saftu was launched. At Saftu’s founding congress WASP raised the need for Saftu to grab hold of and pursue the creation of a mass workers party on a socialist programme. A Political & Ideological Commission was formed to take the discussions further. In March 2018, this Commission reported to the Saftu NEC that “in the current capitalist crises, the only way forward is the building of a Workers Party”. This report in turn led to the convening of the Working Class Summit on 21 and 22 July 2018 to further broaden the forces involved.
Unfortunately the Numsa leadership’s ‘rule or ruin’ approach towards the UF and MfS was transferred to Saftu and the WCS. Unlike the 1993 Numsa generation which placed the resolution for a workers party before the Cosatu congress, the present Numsa leadership by-passed its own federation. Not once did the Numsa leadership raise their plans to launch the SRWP for discussion at the Political & Ideological Commission – established to build a broad consensus across Saftu’s 20+ affiliates on how to proceed in filling the working class political vacuum. Nor did they raise it at the Saftu NEC. With many Saftu affiliates alienated, they had no delegates at the SRWP launch.
At the WCS itself, the conduct of SRWP-supporting Numsa delegates nearly caused the Summit to collapse. They attempted to dominate proceedings in commissions, including the imposition of chairs, scribes and rapporteurs. Their conduct was seen as an attempt to bully communities into endorsing their party, confirming fears that like all other parties, they merely wanted votes to pursue their parliamentary ambitions. It also strengthened the arguments of the ultra-left who oppose any participation in parliament.
The WCS took place a full eight months before the SRWP was launched. Why did the Numsa leadership try to obstruct attempts to build broad support across trade unions, communities and youth organisations for the creation of a mass workers party? Surely, with Saftu already a year old by then, with the successful and explicitly political 25 April 2018 strike against the ANC government behind them, which Numsa had supported, this was an opportune time to proceed? Why did they argue there was no need to reinvent the wheel, when in fact the SRWP wheel was put on the road only after Saftu had clearly taken up the issue of the workers party?
The emphasis on democratic control and accountability that marked the discussions around a mass workers party at the WCS, stands in sharp contrast to the proceedings at the SRWP launch congress. Delegates were hand-picked from selected Numsa structures on a factional basis and padded with praise singers from small left groups. In what was supposed to be an elective congress, the delegates were confronted with a predetermined slate compiled by a self-appointed bureaucracy, that they were expected to endorse.
Astonishingly, the Numsa first deputy president is reported to have motivated for the endorsement of the leadership slate by saying that as the SRWP is a socialist party there was no need for elections! This is Stalinism not Leninism. It is bureaucratic centralism not democratic centralism. In the uproar that ensued, a number of regions protested and demanded to consult the Independent Electoral Commission.
The Western Cape delegates, having initially walked out in protest, withdrew their nominees. The SRWP leadership has no representation from either the Western or Eastern Cape. The SRWP constitution provides for five yearly congresses. The rank-and-file of the party will thus have a say in the election of a leadership imposed on them only in 2024. The SRWP constitution not only provides exemption from elections for so-called founding members, but for all office bearers and structures to be elected by secret ballot.
Given Numsa’s crushing political weight in the SRWP, an evaluation of the party’s character cannot be separated from that of the Numsa leadership itself. It is an undeniable fact that the Numsa leadership is deeply split. Ahead of its 2020 congress, tensions are mounting between contending factions. Despite the claim that the SRWP represents the long delayed implementation of the resolutions of Numsa’s 2013 Special National Congress, the party carries the unmistakable birthmark of these factional battles.
In the manner in which it was established, its organisational methods and the ideological outlook of the dominant Numsa leadership faction, the SRWP is not the party envisaged either by the Numsa members themselves at their 2013 SNC, or the fulfilment of the aspirations of the Working Class Summit. Tellingly, support for the SRWP amongst Numsa members themselves is less than overwhelming.
One of the most critical questions that must be answered is how the SRWP is funded. Before it was exposed as an instrument for the “democratic” exploitation of the working class, the SACP was at least funded by a levy from some Cosatu affiliates and continues to be accommodated in its headquarters. There is no Numsa or Saftu SRWP levy. Yet the SRWP has been able to purchase new branded vehicles, thousands of t-shirts and election posters, paid organisers and luxury venues. If the SRWP is not funded by its members this insulates the leadership from democratic control and accountability. It also opens the party to the influence of capitalist class pressures.
Underlining this, in October 2018, the respected investigative journalists at amaBhungane wrote a piece on the corrosive effect the Numsa Investment Company was having on the democratic structures of the union and the accountability of leadership. The long list of unanswered questions included what the relationship is between the Numsa leadership and various Zuma-supporting champions of “radical economic transformation” like Transform RSA; or the prominent presence of the Numsa Investment Company at the National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA’s ceremony to honour Zuma. NafupaSA has called for the banning of Indian and white funeral undertakers from doing business in African townships.
The meeting between Irvin Jim and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during the contest for the ANC presidency has never been satisfactorily explained. Previous media ‘exposés’ on NUMSA have raised questions about the links between Irvin Jim and the American-Caribbean billionaire and owner of the multinational IT company, Thoughtworks, Roy Singham. amaBhungane directly asked Irvin Jim about any involvement of Singham in the SRWP – presumably as a major funder – but the question went unanswered.
It is true that the capitalist owned media has been used, and will continue to be used, to discredit the trade union movement and any party or movement supporting socialism. However, the way to combat this is not, certainly in the first instance at least, to ignore serious charges raised in public – but to answer them! That is, of course, if there is nothing to hide. On balance, it seems highly likely that the corrosive ‘funding model’ which played an important role in the political degeneration of Cosatu is being re-created in the SRWP itself.
SRWP must join Saftu’s WCS’s mass workers party process
All serious socialists stand for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society. That is ABC. But, to paraphrase Trotsky, the alphabet of revolutionary socialism only begins with its first three letters – it does not end with them. A programme, even a genuine revolutionary one, and the party that promotes it, cannot be imposed. It must be tested by events and win the approval of the masses and the active participation of the leading layers of the working class.
WASP raises our criticisms from fraternal but firm point of view for consideration by Numsa members, Saftu members, participants in the WCS, genuine SRWP activists and the wider working class and encourages them to be debated throughout the movement. Contrary to claims by supporters, the SRWP leadership has never approached us for political collaboration. With the SRWP decision whether to contest or not delayed, WASP devoted its efforts towards the Saftu-WCS process. Unfortunately the supporters of some of the small left groups seeking shelter in the SRWP have subjected WASP to unprovoked political attacks on social media, mischaracterizing, among many things, our long history and proud record in the struggle for the creation of a mass workers party.
We stand for a mass workers party on a socialist programme that unites in struggle the workplaces, the communities and the education institutions. Such a party must be open, democratic and federal in character to allow for the fighting unity of existing working class organisations. This can lay vital foundations for the development of a mass revolutionary party capable of leading the working class in the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society. The arena that provides the most fertile ground for this at this stage of the class struggle is the Saftu-WCS process.
We are on the edge of tumultuous events worldwide. The capitalist classes, bereft of ideas about how to avoid the social convulsions that will be detonated by a new edition of the 2008 Great Recession, are experiencing splits – one of the pre-conditions for revolution. As the magnificent movement of the masses in the Sudan and Algeria show the African working class masses stand ready to join their counterparts worldwide in internationalist collaboration for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.
WASP Bulletin for EPWP workers
The Expand Public Works Programme is a so-called government ‘job creation’ scheme. It officially employs 330,000 workers. But in reality it is a slave-labour scheme that enriches profiteering ‘middle men’ through the exploitation of workers and the looting of public funds. As if to prove this, EPWP workers are excluded from the new national minimum wage. Instead of R20 per hour (itself a poverty wage!), the government expects EPWP workers to accept R11 per hour. But workers have had enough!
Download as a printable PDF here.
The super-exploitation of EPWP workers is continuing. Many receive only R700 per month but work for three days per week! Contracts come-and-go and workers are passed from pillar-to-post. There is no job security and no way for workers to plan for their future or the future of their families.
EPWP workers in all contracts and all locations need to unite in one powerful campaign. Jozi@Work, CWP, Working with Fire etc. must come together. We need to organise a struggle for permanent jobs and a living wage.
Different groups of EPWP workers have joined different trade unions affiliated to the Saftu trade union federation. These include GIWUSA, DEMAWUSA and NUPSAW. It is very important that the leaders of these unions do not keep workers in silos. There must be one united campaign. Saftu supports the #OutsourcingMustFall (#OMF) campaign. This campaign was initiated by WASP in 2016. The #OMF banner is the perfect banner under which to organise a united EPWP struggle. It is already known to many EPWP workers, especially in Gauteng, having led many marches, and is backed by Saftu. It will be necessary to elect a leadership committee to guide the campaign.
Trade union rights
The ANC government denies that EPWP workers are workers. They deny them the right to be represented by a trade union of their choice and therefore the right to bargain collectively. The suppression of the democratic rights of EPWP workers by the ANC government is supported by every party that sits in provincial legislatures, metros and local councils. They all allow the super-exploitation of EPWP workers to continue. This is because they hope to get the middle-man contracts that are used to ‘employ’ EPWP workers. In other words they want to profit from workers’ exploitation.
Especially because of this indignity, it is hugely important that EPWP workers are treated with full equality as trade union members. They must be allowed full democratic participation in the trade unions on exactly the same basis as any other worker. This must include the right to elect their own shop stewards, sit in union branch meetings and other structures, be eligible for election as office bearers at all levels of the union and be eligible to be sent as delegates to union congresses. This must be the case whether or not the bosses and the politicians recognise EPWP workers’ right to organise.
Why are EPWP workers super-exploited?
To build an effective campaign, EPWP workers must be clear on why they suffer super-exploitation. It is a political question.
(1) MASS UNEMPLOYMENT. The underlying problem for EPWP workers is mass unemployment. In South Africa, more than 1 in 3 working-age people (37% – 9 million people) cannot find work. Nobody would take an EPWP ‘job’ on the super-exploitative ‘terms’ offered if they were able to find permanent work elsewhere. But there are not enough jobs! So people have no choice but to accept EPWP ‘work opportunities’.
Mass unemployment is a feature of capitalism everywhere. But so too is over-work. One in ten workers performs more than 60 hours labour per week, even though the law sets 45 hours as the maximum. In many cases, the bosses find it more profitable to over-work their existing employees rather than create new jobs.
Because the ANC government and the other political parties defend the capitalist system they don’t ever challenge this. But mass unemployment is a huge political problem for them. So they come up with the EPWP as a pathetic sticking-plaster.
(2) PUBLIC SECTOR FUNDING CRISIS. The work performed by EPWP workers – dealing with refuse and litter, community health, fire services etc. – is socially important work. This work needs to be done. But the ANC government, the provinces, the metros and local councils want this work done ‘on the cheap’. Because of their defence of the capitalist profit system, they don’t want to raise taxes on big business and the rich, or stop corruption and the looting of public funds. But this could make available the funds needed to create more permanent public sector jobs with full benefits and training.
(3) PROFITEERING ‘MIDDLE-MEN’. The EPWP system of multiple ‘middle-men’ – of so-called NGOs and contractors as the immediate ‘employer’ adds another layer to the exploitation of EPWP workers. It is very useful for the pro-capitalist politicians though. It allows them to hand-out ‘self-enrichment opportunities’ to the politically connected.
Problems rooted in capitalism
The super-exploitation of the EPWP workers is rooted in the capitalist profit-system. Understanding this is vital. Whilst fighting for every improvement, EPWP workers must be part of the wider political struggle against capitalism. This requires unity with workers, communities, the unemployed and young people. EPWP workers should participate as an organised campaign in the Working Class Summit that is bringing together working class communities and campaigns with trade unions.
This struggle needs to be armed with a clear political alternative to capitalism – that means being armed with a socialist programme for struggle:
- Organise a broad and democratic campaign to unite all EPWP workers.
- Kick-out all EPWP contractors! No job losses. Demand a single government employer with clear responsibility for all aspects of EPWP workers’ employment.
- Fight for full trade union rights for EPWP workers! Campaign in the trade unions for the full recognition of EPWP workers’ democratic rights from day one of membership. Elect shop stewards among all EPWP workers.
- Organise and struggle for permanent jobs and a living wage. Fight for the absorption of all EPWP workers into the different public sector workforces.
- Reduce the length of the working week and share-out the work with no loss of pay to end unemployment! Build a united mass campaign of workers, unemployed and the precariously employed (e.g. EPWP workers) to end unemployment!
- Nationalise under democratic working class and community control the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses. A publicly owned and democratically planned socialist economy to meet the needs of all and not the profits of the capitalists.
- Forge the fighting unity of the working class in a party of mass struggle. Build a socialist mass workers party to unite the struggles of the workplaces, the communities and the youth as a vital step toward the creation of a mass revolutionary party
Nationalise ALL banks and finance institutions as the foundation for a socialist economy
by Shaun Arendse, Executive Committee
On 7 March President Ramaphosa announced in parliament that the ANC government will nationalise the Reserve Bank. He explained that the ANC had taken a “clear resolution that the Bank should be owned by the people of SA”. This was adopted as policy at the ANC’s 2017 conference under the pressure of their factional struggle. However, coming from the billionaire Ramaphosa, this latest announcement is not aimed at genuinely transforming the lives of working class and poor people.
Rather, Ramaphosa is trying to out-manoeuvre the Zuma-linked ‘radical economic transformation’ faction within the ANC who have been championing the policy. They would portray any delays in implementing the ANC resolution as proof that Ramaphosa is the puppet of ‘white monopoly capital’. Also, as the election approaches the EFF would use the issue in the same way.
Out-manoeuvring his political opponents by implementing ‘their’ policies is the same tactic that Ramaphosa used over the issue of land expropriation without compensation. It is not too difficult for this tactic to succeed. This is because none of the ANC factions or any of the parties in parliament stands for anything other than the defence of the capitalist profit system.
The rhetoric of ‘radical economic transformation’ is in reality the programme of a section of the aspirant black capitalist class. They are not rich enough for their liking and want to use the capitalist state to accumulate wealth. This was the class interest underlying Zuma’s crude ‘state-capture’ policy. Historically, it was how the aspirant Afrkaner capitalist class used the apartheid state. Up to a point, Ramaphosa can balance the interests of the aspirant black capitalists with those of the established capitalist class (who at least were willing to give him a seat at their dinner table!) who above all else demand a ‘stable’ economic environment to guarantee their property and profits. There is no fundamental contradiction.
Letting the ‘cat out of the bag’ in January, the bosses’ newspaper Business Day published an editorial explaining that: “Ownership is not key to the operation of central banks, so in most cases it is irrelevant whether they are owned by the state or private shareholders.” They went so far as to call the debate a “red herring”.
Across the world-capitalist economy it is unusual for a reserve (or central) bank to have private shareholders. Only six other countries are in the same boat as South Africa. The imperialist countries that dominate the South African economy, for example the UK and USA, have wholly government-owned central banks. This is to say nothing of the government-owned and -controlled People’s Bank of China under the Chinese state-capitalist regime.
Bosses’ economic dictatorship
The real issue for the capitalist class, both in South Africa and internationally, is the so-called “political independence” of reserve and central banks. In the media the need for this is put forward as common sense.
But this ‘common sense’ is new. It only emerged as part of the worldwide neo-liberal capitalist counter-revolution of the late 1970s. After a period of economic crisis and sharp class conflict the bosses and capitalist politicians decided they needed to put the most basic levers of the capitalist economy beyond the democratic reach of the working class and poor majority – in case they elected left-wing or socialist governments. Control of central and reserve banks was therefore handed-over to unelected bureaucrats and ‘specialists’. This undemocratic regime developed its international mirror. Equally unelected and unaccountable credit ratings agencies became the capitalist class’s global police force. Doing whatever they demand is also now presented as ‘common sense’.
In keeping with capitalist ‘best practise’, the SA Reserve Bank’s “political independence” is guaranteed by the same constitution which defends capitalist property rights. The Reserve Bank is mandated by the constitution to control interest rates in order to control inflation (price rises). This encourages restraint in government spending on health, education, housing and services. It rewards austerity of the sort that Ramaphosa and Mboweni delivered in their February budget. It promotes tax cuts for the rich, privatisation and outsourcing, as well as unemployment and the holding down of wages across the economy.
The debate around the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank could shine a light on the real class interests of the bosses that a so-called “independent” Reserve Bank serves. This is what is really making some SA capitalists nervous.
A socialist policy
Should the Reserve Bank be nationalised? We say YES! Kick-out the 650 private shareholders. But why stop there? The ‘big four’ SA banks – Standard Bank, ABSA, FNB and Nedbank – made profits of R40.1 billion in the first six months of 2018. This is where the wealth is sitting for socialist economic transformation in the interests of the working class and poor. The entire financial system, including the ‘big four’ banks and the major insurance companies, should be nationalised. This would lay the foundation for a democratically planned economy run in the interests of the working class and poor.
But we do not want a nationalised banking sector run by unelected pro-capitalist bureaucrats anymore than we want a Reserve Bank run by them. The economy must be under the democratic control and management of the working class.
Our answer to the propaganda that Reserve Bank “independence” is necessary to control inflation is simple – price controls democratically supervised and enforced by workers and communities. If bosses ignore these controls and try, for example, to off-set wage-rises by increasing prices their companies should be occupied by workers and nationalised too. If the bosses try and sabotage a socialist economy with ‘capital flight’ (i.e. taking their money overseas) a workers’ government would put in place capital controls to keep the money here. Appeals would have to be made to workers in other countries for class solidarity and to lay the foundations for a worldwide socialist plan of production.
On this socialist basis the working class can enjoy full employment, permanent jobs, a living wage, high quality and affordable housing, health, education and other services. Workers must organise to demand that their trade unions take-up this programme as the only answer to the fake radicalism in the ‘debates’ of the capitalist politicians around the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank. We must expose their rhetoric and their propaganda and demand a society genuinely run in the interests of the majority.
In the mass class struggles that will develop under the weight of capitalism’s economic crisis this programme must be adopted as part of the working class’s war plan for conquering the commanding heights of the economy. Workers need to campaign for a socialist programme in their trade unions and a leadership willing to fight for it. This must include the trade unions taking the lead in the creation of a mass workers party capable uniting the working class in mass struggle guided by a socialist programme.
- Reject the window-dressing of capitalist politicians! Nationalise the Reserve Bank as part of the socialist transformation of the finance system. Kick-out the capitalist bureaucrats and ‘specialists’. For a socialist economic policy in the interests of the working class and poor majority.
- Place society’s wealth in the hands of the working class! Nationalise under democratic working class control Standard Bank, ABSA, FNB and Nedbank along with the entire financial sector. Guarantee the savings of all working and middle class people and small businesses. Bond and debt relief for struggling home-owners and small businesses. Abolish garnishee orders!
- Combat the sabotage of the bosses! For a state monopoly of foreign trade alongside capital and price controls enforced by democratically elected committees of workers and poor communities. Lock-out the bosses in non-complying industries through workplace occupations. Demand nationalisation under workers control. Build solidarity and international links with the workers of the world – lay the basis for a worldwide socialist plan of production.
- Conquer the commanding heights of the economy for the working class and poor majority! Nationalise under democratic working class and community control the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses and retailers. A publicly owned and democratically planned socialist economy to meet the needs of all and not the profits of the capitalists.
- Forge the fighting unity of the working class in a party of mass struggle! Build a socialist mass workers party to unite the struggles of the workplaces, the communities and the youth as a vital step toward the creation of a mass revolutionary party to lead the socialist transformation of society!
- For a socialist South Africa, a socialist Africa and a socialist world!
End oppression with fight for socialism
by Clare Doyle for CWI International Secretariat
On Friday, 8th March, women across the globe are striking, marching, protesting and celebrating International Women’s Day in unprecedented numbers. In a welcome development, they will be accompanied by more men than in the past who see the need to fight the special oppression of women.
Not all those who mark this special day will know its historical origin in the strikes, struggles and conferences of working and socialist women at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. It is also the day to honour the lives of women pioneers and socialists. We remember Eleanor Marx – daughter of the great socialist theoretician and fighter, Karl Marx – who worked tirelessly to build the strength of the workers’ movement – male and female. We honour the heroic revolutionary, Rosa Luxembourg, brutally murdered a century ago this year.
Chosen by socialists in 1910, International Women’s Day has been a day for women workers to strike and demand a better deal. It was this day in Petrograd, 1917, that women textile workers left their machines to march to the Tsar’s palace demanding food for their children and an end to the devastating war. When workers from the neighbouring factories downed tools in response to their appeal, the revolution became unstoppable. When the Bolsheviks took power nine months later, among their first decrees were sweeping reforms to change the lives of women.
The promise of ‘A New Life’ for working women in the cities and in the countryside – on the basis of state ownership of land and industry, along with truly democratic planning – was broken by Stalin’s counter-revolution. They toiled in the factories and the fields and toiled in the home, bringing up the next generation of workers.
Women and revolution
The oppression of women has been an endemic feature of all class societies. It will not be ended until the prerequisites for a classless society are firmly established through the elimination of capitalism.
Now, in the 21st century, international movements have shown that the conditions exist for a workers’ revolution to leap from country to country in the industrialised world as well as in the still developing ex-colonial countries. To achieve this, a party is vitally needed that stands for workers’ democracy and socialism on the basis of state ownership of land, industry and finance and one that can harness the might of the working class internationally.
More than ten years after the financial crisis of 2007-8, there has been no real recovery in the world economy. In most countries growth is sluggish at best and new generations of workers are on the scrap heap before they can begin to make a life for themselves. Personal debt and government debts have never been higher. Living standards plummet, or at best stagnate, even in the most prosperous of countries.
In Europe and the US, policies of austerity have hit women hardest. Many of the hard-won steps forward in the lives of working women are being reversed. The welfare services on which they depend and in which they work are being cut to the bone, with the care of the young, the sick and the aged falling mainly on their shoulders. They are forced to take low-paid, insecure jobs or claim state assistance which is also being cut to the bone through austerity. Women’s oppression bears down the heaviest on working class and poor women. They find themselves less able to leave an unhappy or a violent relationship for lack of an independent income or available alternative housing.
While the rich get richer, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population live in what seems like unending poverty. A handful of billionaires own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest half the world’s population. Even the capitalist class and its advisers are wary of the tsunami of revolt that could be already in the making.
In France, there has been an eruption of anger against the government of the one-time banker, Emmanuel Macron. A ‘middle layer’ in society including professionals and small business people along with workers who live in ‘peripheral’ small towns and villages have seen their living standards plummet.
The Gilets Jaunes protests are marked by the substantial participation of women – probably about 50%. The entry of the organised working class, with sustained strike action, into this very determined ‘uprising’ would give it the necessary strength to overthrow not just the government but the bosses’ rule in one of the major capitalist powers in the world, and the transformation of society along socialist lines, if led by a mass party of the working class with a Marxist leadership. This would indeed set the prairie fire ablaze!
In the absence of major struggles on the political or industrial plane internationally, movements have nevertheless taken place on important issues like the environment, abortion rights, violence against women, anti-racism, caste discrimination, LGBTQ rights etc. which for the most part are currently not linked to the broader labour movement.
These movements reflect an important radicalisation by a new generation of young people in particular, and the potential for the development of an anti-capitalist consciousness. However, it is necessary for socialist feminists to politically challenge those pro-capitalist feminist ideas present in women’s movements globally which believe that the oppression of women can be resolved within capitalist society. To the ideas which prioritise sectional struggles by oppressed groups, we counterpose the vital importance of the centrality of a united struggle by the working class and poor to end oppression.
Universities are ideology factories that churn out obfuscation and hostility to socialism on behalf of capitalism. A tendency to prioritise “identity” over class abounds and serves to divide rather than unite the forces ranged against the system.
As socialist feminists, we recognise that the real liberation of women is entirely linked to the need to get rid of capitalism – which, based on inequalities of power and wealth sustains and perpetuates women’s oppression. We base ourselves on the working class as the key force in society to bring about real and lasting change.
Feminism and class struggle
The new wave of mass movements against women’s oppression is to be welcomed by all socialists. However, we must fight for these movements to really enhance women’s struggle against the specific oppression they face in capitalist society. With the spread of the #MeToo phenomenon world-wide – from the US through Europe and recently to China – there has never been more awareness of and opposition to the horrors for women of sexual harassment and rape. There has been an upturn in mass protests by women (and men) on this issue and some of the myriad of other issues that blight the lives of half the world’s population.
There is no end to the horrific revelations about sexual harassment at the ‘top’ of society, particularly in the worlds of entertainment and politics These resonated powerfully throughout the world because of how endemic sexual harassment and violence also is amongst working and poor women. Comparatively, there is still little or no publicity for the millions upon millions of women who daily face sexual abuse and rape – at work in the fields, in the markets and in the factories across the world.
Seventy one per cent of the 40.3 million people living in some form of modern slavery are women and girls. An additional 15.4 million people are estimated to be living in forced marriages. The overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees and of the world’s homeless are also women and children. In many countries around the globe abortion is illegal and rape within marriage is not recognised as a crime.
On the other hand, in many countries a working-class fight back of one kind or another is gaining momentum. In Scotland we saw 8,000 council workers who were mostly women strike for equal pay and win, with the support of other male colleagues taking illegal strike action. There have been protests at Walmart, McDonalds and Amazon issues of women’s rights. The Google workers’ global walkout showed how the potential anger on this issue to be channelled into workers’ action.
There have been mass strikes of women garment-workers in Bangladesh for a living wage and walkouts of women on the tea plantations in Sri Lanka for 1,000 rupees a day (just US$ 5.5). There have been mass protests against discrimination in India, against femicide in Argentina, Brazil and Italy. We have seen women across the world involved in numerous protests on housing, abortion rights and against austerity. In Ireland, nurses and midwives have been on strike in a struggle over pay and conditions.
There is a myriad of ways in which women are denied freedom of choice in their daily lives. It is incumbent on socialists to explain their origin and to be fully involved in campaigns to achieve real advances for working women.
We unstintingly fight for a society which is free of all forms of oppression and exploitation on the grounds of gender, race or sexual orientation. This means conducting a tireless struggle for a socialist society where private property is replaced by public ownership and control over a planned economy is in the hands of democratically elected representatives of working and poor people.
It should be the right of all women to be able to choose when and if to have children. However, in societies dominated by landlordism and capitalism, they are prevented by totally inadequate resources as well as all kinds of religious and ‘cultural’ prejudices.
While education, up-bringing and religion can play a big role in perpetuating stereotypes and encouraging the oppression and harassment of women, socialists see the roots of these attitudes in the division of society into classes. For slave-owners, feudal lords and capitalists the family has been a vital construct for transmitting their property and wealth from one generation to another. Under their rule the male slaves, vassals and workers are a useful ‘transition belt’, as the revolutionary Leon Trotsky described it, for the idea of discipline. Obedience to the male in the household trains women and children to comply with orders from above.
The role of women, as far as the owners of industry and land are concerned, apart from providing cheap labour in the factories or on the land, has been to provide unpaid labour in the production and care of the next generation of workers. Within the family, they are also expected to look after those who can no longer work through illness or old age. Over the years, reforms that alleviate the burdens on women have been won but not without a fight and sometimes the threat of a fight.
After the Second World War, education, health and welfare provisions in the US and Europe – especially France and Britain – were the product of a huge radicalisation, especially amongst returning soldiers, and the refusal to go back to how life had been before. The reforms were aimed at preventing revolution that threatened the very survival of the bosses’ rotten capitalist system. In former colonial countries like Sri Lanka and Malaysia it was the fear of revolt from those who had fought for independence and wanted to go further in attacking the new comprodore capitalist class. Reforms were introduced in order to stave off revolution and socialism.
National health services and public education systems are not just a nice measure implemented by enlightened governments. They are a way of ensuring that the bosses in industry have a constant supply of labour which is healthy and also skilled in order to maintain their profit-driven system.
However, in many ex-colonial countries, only a minimal health service exists. Across the world millions of women and children die of preventable illnesses and during pregnancy and childbirth.
Over the years in many developed capitalist economies, public services which have eased the burden of working class women in relation to child care and other ‘domestic’ responsibilities. Now, the clock is being turned back. Even the basic provisions of state health and education systems are under threat in both developed and underdeveloped economies.
In Europe and the US, especially since the 2008 crisis of the bosses’ system, these services have been undermined by austerity policies. Not only are working class women being made to pay for the crisis which is not of their making in terms of reverses in social services and health provision; but it is predominantly women who work in these sectors and they are the ones whose jobs – part-time and full-time – are cut, forcing them back into the home on much reduced incomes.
Working class and poor women are, as always, to the fore in movements against these reverses. It is they who suffer most from the lack of decent homes to raise their families. It is also women who are often the most vociferous against cuts to the health service, old people’s homes and nurseries. They demand shelter for those who seek refuge from violence in the home. It is literally a matter of life and death.
Socialists who are fighting for a different, class-free world cannot say “Hold on!”. In the North of England, a campaign against cuts to domestic violence services called ‘Women’s Lives Matter’ quite rightly has the slogan: ‘Women cannot wait!’ and demands “No cuts!”. Socialists are fighting against austerity as well as violence against women and the sexist attitudes and behaviour that capitalism perpetuates throughout society.
But, to achieve lasting reforms, all of these issues require the active involvement of workers and their organisations – above all the trade unions. We saw how, in the past, socialists fought for and won the support of trade unions for campaigns against domestic violence and for shelter and assistance for all those affected by it. Today, drastic cuts in services, dictated by bosses’ governments, have been carried out by local authorities of all colours. A trade union socialist fight-back is vital!
Action on International Women’s Day
Members of our International – the CWI – have succeeded in reviving the tradition of striking on 8 March. In the Spanish state last year, at the initiative of the Sindicato de Estudiantes and Libras y Combativas, the socialist feminist platform of the CWI in Spain, over two million students and workers walked out to protest against the horrific levels of violence against women accepted by both church and (Francoist) state. (Again, on 14 November last year, more than 1.5 million students participated in strikes and demonstrations against sexism in schools and in the legal system.) This year, with even more determination, they will be striking and demonstrating on March 8th.
In Belgium also there will be walkouts from work and tens of thousands of women in Argentina and Italy will be stopping work and demonstrating under the slogan ‘Non Una di Meno’. Likewise in Brazil against the newly elected, openly sexist Bolsonaro, who turns his back on the vile murders of women, gay and trans campaigners and aims to reverse hard-won and vitally needed abortion rights.
In the US, International Women’s Day marches will no doubt be fuelled by Donald Trump’s world-renowned misogyny. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a supreme court judge created outrage not only because of his notorious sexual predatory but because of his attacks on workers and his known intention of reversing advances in abortion rights made through hard-fought campaigns.
There will be walkouts in Southern Ireland where one year ago the campaign to repeal the law forbidding abortion was nearing its historic victory which led to the legal right of all women to a termination during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The pressure is now on for that same right to be available in the North. In Poland the struggle continues to reverse swingeing cuts in abortion rights and in Norway, where they are also now threatened, protests will no doubt take place this Friday.
In the coming days, socialistworld will carry reports of this year’s action and demonstrations around the world, celebrating the International women’s day and stepping up the fight for international socialism.
Build a workers party – mass struggle for a SOCIALIST budget
We support the Working Class Summit-organised budget march. It is taking place in Cape Town tomorrow (20 February). We call on all trade unions and working class community, youth and student organisations to support it. The working class must build unity in struggle!
There is a new finance minister. But the working class and poor have no illusions about what Tito Mboweni will announce in the budget. On behalf of the ANC government, and behind it the capitalist class, we will get a stepping-up of the offensive against the working class that Ramaphosa has already begun. Ramaphosa, announced a “new dawn”. But Mboweni’s mini-budget in October last year fired the first shots in the sharpening class war: a VAT increase; sugar tax and increased fuel levy. Since then, tax revenue, including corporate tax collections have fallen. The budget deficit and government debt have increased. The bill will be presented to the working class. The bosses are screaming for 30,000 retrenchments in the public sector and Eskom whilst continuing retrenchments in the private sector. To weaken working class resistance Ramaphosa has also crippled the right to strike. The lines of class war are clearly drawn. Unemployment, poverty and inequality are here to stay as long as the running of society is left in the hands of the bosses and their politicians.
But it is not only the ANC that is incapable of offering an alternative. An election may only be months away but no government based on the existing parties in parliament, in any combination, coalition or otherwise, can make a real difference to the lives of working class people. That is because none of these parties has a programme to break with the capitalist profit system or a perspective for organising mass struggle to replace it with socialism. The already massive abstention rates in elections – more than 11 million people chose not to vote in 2014 – shows working class people understand that capitalist politics offers them nothing.
We support demands to raise taxes on the rich and big business. But this alone is not enough. What the working class does not own it can never really control. If the bosses are left in charge they will always find ways to sabotage anything that hurts their interests. We therefore raise the call for a socialist budget built on the foundation of nationalisation under workers’ democratic control of the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses. This is the only way to release the wealth needed and begin to develop a democratically planned economy capable of ending unemployment and winning a living wage, decent working conditions and permanent jobs, high quality and affordable housing and efficient and reliable services.
But the bosses will never just give this to us. We will need to organise and struggle for it. The trade union movement needs to take the lead by building co-ordinated campaigns of rolling mass action on all issues facing the working class. In the workplaces especially, this means a struggle against ALL retrenchments and for a living wage of R12,500. Wherever union members and shop stewards are blocked by corrupt or conservative leaders they should set up industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite the workers of all federations, unions, and those not yet members of unions, in campaigns of rolling mass action. In non-complying workplaces and industries workers should enforce compliance through occupations that demand nationalisation under workers control. The Saftu-organised Section 77 strike at the end of March should be a springboard for this militant programme.
Both Saftu and the Working Class Summit have passed important resolutions in favour of creating a workers party that first and foremost unites the struggles of workers and communities. The need for the working class to win political power needs to be posed clearly and placed at the forefront of all working class struggle. Forward to a socialist mass workers party! Forward to socialism!
Venezuela: For mass mobilization of workers to build real socialism and put an end to corrupt bureaucracy!
by Executive Committee of Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Venezuela)
The new leader of the Venezuelan right and far right, Juan Guaidó, (recently elected president of the counterrevolutionary national Assembly) has proclaimed himself President. He called on his supporters to take to the streets to force through the down fall of Nicolás Maduro’s government. Immediately, the most reactionary governments in Latin America and the world, with far-right Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil) and Donald Trump (USA) at the head, have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s “only legitimate president”.
A coup d’état planned by imperialism and the Venezuelan and international right
Wielding all kinds of threats, the US Secretary of State (and former director of the CIA), Mike Pompeo, has demanded that the Maduro government resign immediately. “We have all the options on the table” said Trump. The Venezuelan ultra-right leader, also announced on television that “we are very close to the moment for which we fought for years” and told Maduro to resign “if he wants to save his life”. Latin American governments that stand out for their reactionary and antisocial policies and their servility to Washington enthusiastically support the coup while cynically claiming to stand “for democracy.” You only have to see who leads this ‘Holy Alliance’ to understand what is at stake: the Colombian president Duque (linked to Urribe narcoparamilitarismo), the Ecuadorian President Moreno (The Judas of the Ecuadorian left) President Macri (responsible for the brutal cuts that have provoked the Argentine people to rise up on their feet and fight) or the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (organizer of an electoral fraud with the support of the White House last year and responsible for the repression and murder of dozens of protesters). As is to be expected applauding enthusiastically from the other side of the Atlantic are the European right and far right in Spain with Pablo Casado from the PP, Albert Rivera (Cuidadanos) and the fascistic elements of Vox in the front line.
Guaidó and the Venezuelan right are trying to take advantage of the desperation and indignation felt by the Venezuelan people in the face of the economic and social collapse that the country suffers. GDP and living standards have fallen by 50% in the last four years and the situation has only worsened with price increases of up to 1000% since the beginning of this year.
As we write these lines, tens of thousands of people in different parts of Venezuela have responded to the call of Guaidó not to leave the streets until Maduro resigns or the military takes him down, copying the script of the failed right-wing coup against Chavez in April 2002. On the other hand, Government supporters who had gathered in the Plaza O’Leary of Caracas and other central points of the big cities have been called upon by Diosdado Cabello, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), to go to the Miraflores Palace, as happened in 2002, and keep a vigil to defend it and Maduro from a possible opposition assault.
The pacts of the government with the capitalists open the way to the reaction
The main difference of this coup with that perpetrated against Chávez in 2002 is that the parasitic, corrupt and reactionary Venezuelan right is managing to mobilize not only young university students, professionals and small owners belonging to the middle classes, as happened during the violent guarimba that caused more than 100 deaths between March and July 2017. On this occasion, significant sectors of the youth, unemployed, and even workers, desperate because of the economic situation and the brutal price increases, are marching from poor neighborhoods called onto the street by the right and the extreme right.
Since August 2018, when the government of Maduro applied the so-called Economic Reactivation Plan and devalued the bolivar by establishing a new currency, the Sovereign Bolivar (60 BS equal to 1 dollar), hyperinflation – which was already out of control – has reach devastating levels. Before the start of this latest crisis, the dollar was exchanged for 3,000 sovereign bolivars! Some analysts forecast six or seven-digit inflation for this year.
A simple consultation in a private clinic, something to which not only the middle layers but also many workers are forced to have because of the collapse of the public health service, has soared in price in a few days from 2,000 to 15,000 BS. The state company mobile phone company Movilnet has raised its lowest rates from 169 to 1,300 Bs! While accepting these increases, or even applying them in services and products that depend on public companies, the governments’ only response was a “triumphalist”, a new salary increase of 400% ( from 4,500 BS to 18,000 Bs per month). That is worth barely $ 6, completely insufficient to deal with the rise in basic commodity prices.
The promised wage increases, that hyperinflation eats before being they are applied, together with the triumphalist and even contemptuous tone of the leadership and the PSUV bureaucracy against those who protest, the recourse to repression against many workers who have staged defensive strikes in recent months, together with the fact that most of the bureaucrats who wear the red flannel live with all kinds of privileges and material conditions similar to that of the capitalist class, has only intensified the rage of people. On this objective basis, the right has regained the initiative and launched this new assault for power.
But the victory of the right wing reactionary forces will not solve the problems of the working people. On the contrary! The objective of the imperialists who are pulling the strings behind Guaidó is to force an intervention by senior military officers or at least of a significant layer of them to overthrow Maduro and give power to the right. For years, Maduro has tried to stay in government by giving more and more concessions, economic power and weight in the government to the military high command. This has contributed to an increase in corruption and provoked unrest amongst workers and the people. However, it will not guarantee the loyalty of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to Maduro.
During its previous offensive to take power in 2017, the Venezuelan right had already managed to open a breach in the state apparatus with the support of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz and the resignation of some senior military officials. Then, a key factor for the military leadership, was that the right wing opposition strategy was not enabling them to secure the mass mobilizations they hoped for and they did not spread from the urban middle class to the working class and poor neighborhood’s. In addition, the terrorist actions of the fascist gangs convinced hundreds of thousands of workers, who were very dissatisfied with the government’s policies, to give the PSUV and its National Constituent Assembly (ANC) a last chance. But now the situation has undergone a qualitative transformation.
The PSUV bureaucracy does not defend socialism
The media of the ruling class and international world reaction present the events in Venezuela as the failure of socialism. In Venezuela itself, with the inestimable help of the bureaucratic leaders of the PSUV – who classify this disaster and its policy of pacts with businessmen of a “transition to socialism” -, the right uses the economic collapse to sow confusion amongst the masses, undermine its morale and discredit the idea of socialism, workers control and in general everything that smells left or revolution.
In fact, the program applied by Maduro and the PSUV leaders are light years away from socialism and what millions of people expected in 2013, when they voted to keep the social plans and reforms carried out by Chávez in trying to respond to the aspirations of the working class and the most oppressed sectors of the people.
Since then, Maduro and his collaborators, also inspired by the Chinese government and a whole legion of Stalinist “fellow travelers”, have tried to convince the Venezuelan and international ruling class that they could manage the worst crisis in the history of Venezuelan capitalism with less social upheavals than the right wing would mean. During recent months they have approved very hard social cuts and wage reductions, the dismissals of thousands of workers from public companies by trying to cover them up with a fraudulent and impotent “revolutionary mysticism”. Through these policies they have only managed to erode in record time the massive social support that the PSUV had. Now the same bourgeoisie and businessmen who benefited from the government aid and signed agreements with the regime are manoeuvring with imperialism to regain direct control of government and state power. This crisis is the result of the bureaucratic “socialist” model of a caste of demoralized and corrupt officials, military and politicians, who have risen totally above the living conditions of the people who have been fighting to maintain their privileges. Their actions have undermined the conquests of the Bolivarian revolution and allowed the reaction to advance.
Organize action committees in each neighborhood and each factory. Build a united front of the left to defeat the coup and end capitalism and the bureaucracy
Guaidó is like a wolf in a lambs clothing and speaks of a government for all and reconciliation. Yet if this right-wing reactionary and the forces that support him come to power, the result will be a nightmare for millions of workers and peasants, who are suffering from the social and economic crisis. Their political and economic agenda can only be applied with even more massive layoffs, brutally cutting social spending and repressing unions, social movements, and activists on the left, on an even more brutal and bloody scale than they do in the countries of their sponsors – Duque, Bolsonaro and Macri .
The first task of the working class and the politically conscious and combative people of Venezuela is to organize resistance against the coup. We must begin by denouncing the true objectives of Guaidó, the right wing and imperialism. We have to organize assemblies in each company and place of work to discuss what our needs and demands are and how the economic plans and policies of the right mean a mortal danger. It is urgent to create action committees in defense of the rights of workers and the people in each work center and each neighborhood, defending a genuinely socialist class program, which proposes the expropriation of the big private monopolies and banking to end the hyperinflation and corruption, the abolition of the privileges of the bureaucracy and that strives to transfer real power to the hands of the working class and the oppressed. We must organize massive mobilizations and the legitimate self-defense of the people against the violence of the right.
The experience of recent years shows that we cannot have the slightest confidence in the Maduro government, the bureaucracy or the senior army officers if we want to prevent the victory of the reaction. It has been Maduro’s policies, his bureaucracy and his corruption that have opened the way to the right wing and the coup. The only way to avoid a tragic result for the working class and the people of Venezuela is to raise a united front of the left, completely independent of those who have caused this disaster, to openly fight for the conquest of power to establish a democratic administration of the workers’ and exploited people, based on direct democracy in all aspects of social and economic life, that advance an economic plan, through the expropriation of capitalists and the management and democratic control of workers, to create employment and increase production and the social conquests won previously.
There is no time to lose. Massive resistance must be waged against the blow of reaction and imperialism with mass mobilization from below, raising a revolutionary socialist and internationalist program. The peoples and the working class of the whole world, beginning with those of Latin America, have the duty to reject the bloodbath that the rightwing coup and its international mentors are preparing. Only the working people can save the people!
This morning WASP member Goodenough Chimurenga was able to send us an eyewitness report of the mass movement that rocked Zimbabwe last week.
Good morning comrades. I’m sorry that I have not been a reliable correspondent on the events obtaining here. My useless phone and the internet blockade have not helped matters at all. I shall try to give you a picture of what’s taking place.
It has been quite difficult to judge the accuracy of certain social media reports all across the country mostly because of the complete media blackout imposed by the regime and it’s complete control of the internal press.
But I think it is safe to characterize last week’s events as overwhelmingly historical, particularly the first three days where we saw what can be easily be described as a total, all-be-it momentary, seizure of power by the masses through the shutdown/general strike organised by ZCTU [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions]. The state was rendered functionless and redundant by the total withdrawal of labour by workers both in the public and private sectors, informal workers, which I think was mostly made possible by the taxi drivers who were angered by the fuel hike.
Even riot police could not report for duty under the circumstances. Remember the ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] often the chief instrument of state repression has basically been demoted after Mugabe’s ouster. They seem to be holding some sort of a grudge against the Mnangagwa regime.
The wave of protests ignited by the fuel hike took place in the townships as opposed to the city centres where they usually take place. The angry masses in Harare and Bulawayo went after every symbol of the state they could get hold of – from the Choppies Supermarket chain where Mnangagwa holds a stake, to the police stations, and every car that seemed to be disobeying the shutdown.
Some rank-and-file military personnel in uniform in Harare were seen participating in the looting of Choppies as well as enforcing the shutdown by blocking and beating people who disobeyed it, at least for the first 3 days of last week.
Of course the regime reacted violently and brutally by unleashing the military on innocent civilians and activists in the townships but with much less confidence in it’s own capacity this time and a little too late than usual.
Opposition parties remain oblivious to the revolutionary moment before them and completely incapable of providing the leadership the angry masses so desperately need.
by CWI reporters
A three day general strike in Zimbabwe was set in motion on 14 January in response to the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and local activists the strike was in protest against the 150 per cent fuel price hike announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 12 January.
The national shut-down was overwhelmingly implemented by the workers, unemployed and self-employed – the vast majority of Zimbabweans. In the capital, Harare, and second largest city Bulawayo, people, including large numbers of youth, took to the streets demonstrating. Elsewhere people stayed home as a way of expressing their grievances.
The police met the demonstrations with live bullets and tear gas. Two days into the general strike, five people have reportedly been shot dead by the police, and several others wounded. A police station in Harare was torched as demonstrators reacted against the heavy-handed repression. Some demonstrators set up barricades blocking the roads into the cities. Media also reports some looting. The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reports that its head office was looted and set alight. Also cars of the ruling ZANU-PF were targeted.
Now priced at US$3.31 per litre (diesel to US$3.11), fuel in Zimbabwe is now the most expensive in the world in a country where only 11% of the 5.4m economically active population are employed in the formal sector, and 72% live below the World Bank poverty line of US$1.90 per day. The working class and poor in Zimbabwe had already been hard hit by accelerating price hikes, shortage of hard cash, fuel and basic goods including medicine under the new finance minister’s mockingly titled “Austerity for Prosperity” budget under which soldiers’ pensionable age was raised to 70 from 65 years of age.
According to the announcement by the government, big businesses will be compensated for the increase through tax rebates. This on its own is an attack on the workers, the poor, the unemployed and self-employed – the bosses’ government is trying to force the workers and poor to pay for the economic crisis. Mnangagwa has also announced wholesale privatisation of publicly own corporations since he took power.
The national shut-down comes on the heels of the doctors` strike, which was just called-off after over a month of struggle for, amongst others, outstanding wages and a massive increase in health care spending. A teachers strike is also planned for later this month. A group of teachers recently marched from Bulawayo to Harare (430 kilometres!) to present their grievances, including among other things poor salaries amid increased prices in basic goods, to the government. Public sector workers also served a strike notice on the Public Service Commission on 8 January after negotiations between the government and workers failed.
In other words, the general strike takes place as part of a ferment across workplaces and communities. Not even six months after he was elected, president Mnangagwa (who in November 2018 was involved in the coup that unseated his old party comrade Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power) may be facing a brewing rebellion. The elections were in reality called to legitimise the regime Mnangagwa’s military installed following the thinly disguised coup that ousted Mugabe.
As the Saturday Big Read (SBR) (16/01/2019) points out: “On August 1 2018, the same military was deployed into the streets of Harare. The operation left six dead and 35 others wounded. Shot down in cold blood. A commission of inquiry was set up. It performed a shoddy white-washing job. No-one has been held accountable. Not even a single word of apology.”
Just six months later, the SBR reports that “The State has now resorted to extraordinary measures, without even declaring a State of Emergency. They include the following:
- military deployment
- detention of civilians
- shootings, beatings, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. People have been killed in cold blood
- door-to-door search & seizure of individuals and abductions
- shutdown of the Internet and social media to prevent free flow of information. There is an information blackout
- Propaganda, blaming the opposition and civil society groups for what are plain opposition protests”
Despite pointing to serious evidence of rigging before the elections – including the refusal by the Independent Elections Commissions to release the voters roll for inspection by the opposition critical for their credibility – the MDC participated in what were in effect fraudulent elections, overwhelmed by its ambition for office.
Although the MDC has expressed solidarity with the strike, its pre-occupation has been to deny responsibility for them. Clearly taken by surprise by these developments, instead of placing itself at the head of these massive protests, it is using them instead to make a call for regional intervention and for Mnangagwa to return from his overseas trip for a ‘national dialogue’.
The CWI gives full support to the strike and calls on workers, youth and community activists to use the strike to build organising committees in workplaces, schools, townships and villages to discuss the programme of action and the alternative to the increasingly nightmarish situation. The ZCTU rank-and-file must campaign for the unions to break any lingering ties with the MDC and campaign for the creation of a workers party.
The only way out of the Zimbabwe crisis, is to struggle for a socialist Zimbabwe, a socialist Africa and a socialist world, where the resources of society are taken into genuine public ownership, managed and controlled democratically by workers and communities, and production is planned for the needs of all, not the profits of big business, the multinationals and the politically connected elite.
[whohit]POST – Zimbabwe: general strike in response to price hikes[/whohit]