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For more than a month now, since 17 November, France has seen an apparently unstoppable revolt from below. A massive tide of very visible protest has swept the country, initially against a rise in the tax on diesel, but rapidly becoming a revolt of the oppressed against ‘the president of the rich’, Emmanuel Macron.
On the evening of 10 December, after a day of talks between business and union leaders with the government, this most unpopular of presidents broke his silence to address the nation and accepted he had “upset” people. Confirming the reversal of the fuel tax rise, he outlined a €10 billion package which included a €100 rise in the minimum wage, a revision of levies on pensions, a decrease in taxation on overtime pay and encouragement for better-off bosses to pay a little Christmas bonus to their workers if they could afford it!
The top crocodile, Macron, shed some tears, but there was no talk of reversing the massive tax breaks given to the super-rich from the earliest days of his still short ‘reign’. A gilets jaunes representative, Laetitia Dewalle, invited for comment by the main state TV channel France2, exclaimed: “Of course it’s not enough!” She added, “If he’s been absent from view for ten days, it was obviously to take acting lessons.” “Why should I listen to him?” said someone watching the broadcast. “He doesn’t listen to us!”
The next day, Tuesday 11 December, has seen a new wave of protests, including fierce battles between police and protesters, with large numbers of students mobilised. A number of scenarios could open up.
Together with his La Republique en Marche party, Macron has only been in power for 18 months. Variously styling himself as Jupiter or Napoleon, it is his resignation that every demonstration has been demanding. Some protesters are veterans of the month of revolution in 1968, when the fate of General de Gaulle hung in the balance. Others refer, light-heartedly, to the way Louis XVl met his end in the revolution of 1789!
This is not yet a revolution, but a very determined uprising of the neglected and deprived sections of the population, especially in the countryside. But more and more, it has found an echo amongst layers of France’s heroic working class.
The ‘invisible’ have become visible with the yellow ‘Hi Viz’ jackets – the uniform of the movement. Their good-natured blockades of the roads and toll booths across the country have become a novel, now well-established, feature of this revolt.
The diesel tax rise – a cheap way for this government to raise money and look as if it cares for the environment – was the last straw for so many in French society, who have seen their living standards pushed down to poverty levels. As the protests, which include people of all political persuasions and none, have grown, so have the demands. By the fourth week they were reported to have a charter of “suggestions to end this crisis”.
Under ‘Economy/work’, it speaks of a 40% increase in the minimum wage, pensions and benefits, of “mass hirings” in the state sector, of 5 million new homes.
Under the heading ‘Politics’, France should leave the EU, reverse all privatisations, remove all ‘useless’ speed cameras (!), reform education. Under ‘Health/Environment’ it demands a 10 year guarantee to end planned obsolence, ban GM foods, carcinogenic pesticides, monoculture and reindustrialise France to reduce pollution.
Under ‘Geopolitics’ they want to pull France out of NATO and foreign wars and stop plundering Francophone Africa…generally have laws and access to the law that covers everyone and everything!
Who is involved?
The protests have been joined by workers on the blockades and on the demonstrations in Paris and around the country. It has inspired workers and young people across the border in Belgium and elsewhere, who have had enough of austerity and pro-rich governments. The movement, especially if it gains a major victory, could well spread across Europe and beyond. Many workers and young people are envious of the French people’s penchant for protesting with great determination. The Egyptian dictator, General Sisi, has banned the sale of yellow, hi-viz jackets and even Mosul in Iraq is reported to have its own small gilets jaunes protest.
Youth enter the fray
On 10 December, a new impetus was given to the ‘uprising’ when students at 100 schools set up blockades and joined the struggle. Students are angry at the so-called ‘reforms, which deny them unfettered access to university. Their entry onto the scene was undoubtedly a weighty factor behind the concessions made by Prime Minister, Phillippe, announced on Tuesday 11 December.
Then the shocking scenes went viral of school students on their knees, with their hands on their heads or tied behind them, and with fully armed police towering over them. This aroused a wave of anger beyond the borders of France. On many of the demonstrations, last Saturday, a theatrical re-enactment of armed police versus children was played out in the squares of the country’s towns and cities.
At first, the gilets jaunes were mostly impoverished middle and poor layers of the population, far from and alienated by what they saw as the pampered bourgeois of the capital city. When the Saturday demonstrations in Paris ended with violent battles and the torching of some symbols of luxurious living, demonstrators commented to the media: “We wouldn’t take this kind of action ourselves but we like the results!”
The plebeian nature of the original layers involved in this movement finds expression in their hostility to the complacently rich – the ‘BoBo’s or ‘bourgeois bohemians’ of Paris, and elsewhere – that they are alienated from. The president, who is seen as representing these people rather than those of the majority of the population, has sunk lower in the opinion polls than any previous president. He has less support than the 24% of the electorate which supported him in the first round of the 2017 presidential election.
His party is fractured, his government has already ‘lost’ seven ministers. He may sacrifice his prime minister, as other presidents have done in the face of revolt against their rule. Macron is desperate that it is not his own head that rolls.
Features of a revolution
The brutal use of the forces of the state against demonstrators, in many places, has only increased the determination of the protesters for a fight to the finish. The ruling layer in society is at sixes and sevens on how to proceed. The middle layers are already involved. The forces of the state have been overstretched and are ripe for defection.
What is missing is a mass mobilisation of the most powerful force in society for change – the working class in the factories, the depots, the stations, the offices, the schools and the hospitals. All these workers have already expressed grievances against their bosses or the government or both. Many have been involved in determined but scattered strikes and struggles.
The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) bases itself on the tenet that the only force that can lead to a decisive and lasting victory over the capitalist system is the working class, on the move and with a clear, revolutionary leadership. As yet these factors are missing.
The largest trade union federation in France – the CGT – belatedly called for a build-up of strikes and demonstrations from this Friday coming, and a general strike could develop, even without a call from the top, as it did in 1968. Alternatively it could be limited action but successful, like the mobilisation of two million public sector strikers on the streets in 1995, which defeated the pension ‘reforms’ of Jacques Chirac (and saw the resignation of his prime minister, Alain Juppe). The strategy (on either side) could be to allow a breathing space over the Christmas period before another round of battles in the New Year.
Whatever happens, it is clear that this battle with Macron and his rich backers is not over.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France Insoumise (France Unbowed), and the left candidate who got over 7 million votes in the first round of the last presidential election, called for protesters to converge in Paris and other cities for ‘Act 5’ of the Saturday demonstrations. He speaks of a continuation of the Citizens’ Revolution but makes no concrete proposals for organising a movement to carry it through.
Programme and leadership
The forces of the CWI in France – Gauche Revolutionnaire – and supporters from other countries, are active participants in the movement – on the blockades, in the lycees and on the mass protests. They have a special issue of their paper – ‘Egalite’ – which calls for a one-day general strike, as the next step to mobilise to bring down the hated government.
The appetite has undoubtedly increased with the eating in an inspiring movement. It is diffuse, but the nature of the demands clearly reflect the anger that exists in society at searing levels of inequality – vastly increased wealth for the tops and ever-increasing sacrifices for the working class and poor.
A feature of this movement has been widespread comments of previously comfortable layers of the middle class now forced into the ranks of the working class. Marx and Engels explained exactly this process that takes place during crises of capitalism in the ‘Communist Manifesto’ first published 170 years ago. Similar moods and sentiments lie behind much of the growth of populism of both the right and left variety in other countries, along with the still surviving post-Stalinist hostility towards organising parties, the concerns of top-down policy-making. It means the movement is diffuse. Being leaderless is an advantage, in some respects, but a hindrance to democratic decision-making and development of cadres and leadership.
The far right figure, Marine le Pen, blamed globalisation and immigration for the crisis in French society. Some of the protests originally smacked of these sentiments but such views were crowded out by mood of common struggle against the government.
Now the gilets jaunes is truly a movement of ‘tous ensemble’ (‘everyone together’). The crucial element which can turn this massive cry of rage into a force for transforming society, on socialist lines, is a party that has this as its clear aim – not just in its name, devoid of all meaning, like that of the discredited Socialist Party in France. The Communist Party in France does not have the support of the past, when it was a mass party of the working class. But that also means it cannot play the role it did in 1968 of an enormous brake on the workers’ movement just as it was on the brink of taking power.
One of the features of the present movement is that it appears to have no leaders and so no-one that the government can persuade to call off the action. It has spokespeople, like Benjamin Cauchy, who declares the movement will not be satisfied with crumbs – it wants the baguette.
As socialists, we would say, why not the bakery? Macron may ‘sacrifice’ his prime minister. He may even be forced to resign himself. New elections may be called. But any government which stays in charge of an economy where the commanding heights are largely in the hands of private owners will return, again and again, to make the workers and poor pay for their recurrent crises.
‘Now that you feel your power’, we would say, ‘Why not link up representative elected committees on a local, regional and national level and make a bid to get rid of the government?’ Jean-Luc Melenchon has called for a Constituent Assembly. Why not make it an assembly of revolt, with democratically elected representatives, at all levels, including from assemblies in the workplaces , offices, schools, local neighbourhoods, and factories?
Such mass committees of struggle could grow into a government of workers and poor people. It can have as its programme all the demands of the movement and the taking into public ownership of the big banks and top companies – the ‘CAC 40’ – which form the basis of French capitalism (and where the friends of Macron get their easy wealth from). The watchwords of the revolution of 1789 – ‘Equality, Liberty and Fraternity’ – can only be secured on the basis of socialism!
As the special edition of Gauche Revolutionnaire’s newspaper puts it, the French movement needs to link the immediate struggle for a minimum wage, the re-instatement of the taxes on the super-rich, an injection of billions into education, health and the environment with the struggle for socialism. This entails striving for a society that is “planned democratically and ecologically to satisfy the needs of all and not the profits of the handful of super-rich…a truly democratic, fraternal and tolerant society, free of wars, poverty, racism and sexism”.
by Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee
This article appears in the new issue of Izwi Labasebenzi (Issue No. 2 of 2018).
The EFF has turned five, but it finds itself at sixes and sevens. The VBS corruption revelations may be shocking, but they are no aberration. This is but the latest example of the EFF’s mounting contradictions. The timing could not have been more embarrassing. Having played a major role in determining Zuma’s fate, the EFF was still celebrating their latest victory – the resignation of Nhanhla Nene.
The EFF has vigorously denied wrongdoing, threatening legal action against the SA Reserve Bank. But it is possible that second-in-command, deputy president Floyd Shivambu, could be prosecuted. Claims have since followed that Julius Malema, (through his cousin) and the EFF itself may have benefited. The EFF refused to form coalitions with the ANC because it is corrupt. Yet it entered coalitions for self-enrichment with ANC leaders, turning VBS into an institution for theft from the poor.
The EFF leadership has, unsurprisingly proclaimed its 16 October VBS press conference a success. With the investigations still ongoing and prosecutions still awaited – the evidence is not yet in the public domain. The EFF is thus able to claim it is innocent till proven guilty. But this is a fig leaf to hide its naked embarrassment.
The evidence of looting is so overwhelming that the EFF leadership had no alternative but to echo public sentiment, pretending to share in the revulsion, condemning corruption and calling for prosecutions. Malema even gave an undertaking to act against Shivambu if he were found guilty.
To make matters worse for the EFF, it is suspected that behind its so-far unsuccessful no-confidence motions against Tshwane Mayor, Solly Msimang, are attempts to cover-up corruption amounting to R12 million involving a Tshwane City Manager – an alleged EFF member.
Attempting to rescue its “radical economic transformation” credentials, the EFF has called for VBS to be saved, because it is a “black bank.” This serves merely to expose the EFF’s real class ambitions – self-enrichment. It stands firmly beside the ANC, DA, and the radical transformation rabble – Black First Land First, Transform SA, Mazibuye African Congress etc. – to get rich quickly.
The EFF is approaching a cross-road in its political fortunes. Severe damage to its dishonestly constructed anti-corruption image faces it. Simultaneously cracks are widening in the party itself. Chaos erupted at two of its provincial assemblies. In at least one, Malema’s bodyguards fired live rounds of ammunition at EFF members storming the fleeing commander-in-chief’s car. They had rebelled against the imposition of his preferred provincial structure candidates. Malema’s North West EFF allies are desperately fending off sexual harassment and victimization allegations. All this has severely dented many EFF members’ confidence.
How did the EFF get here?
The EFF’s political and ideological degeneration is surprising not because it has occurred at all – that was always a given. It is the speed with which it is undressing itself that is striking. The leadership’s fears are for both their personal fate at the hands of the law, as well as its electoral credibility. It is turning up the volume of its racist noise – condemning all whites as thieves, smearing Indians and coloureds as racists – in a desperate attempt to boost its electoral appeal, stalling since 2014. In the 37 by-elections in 2018, it has not increased its 2014 votes, and regressed in most provinces. Its Gauteng growth is small. Only in Limpopo has it increased support more significantly.
The EFF boasted ahead of the 2016 local elections that it expected to control at least one metro and some municipalities. As the capitalist Business Day observed, “Malema predicted 18% (from the 6% in 2014) at the local elections in 2016. It got to 8%, less than 100,000 new votes…. Now he’s projecting 12% in 2019. That’s still well over 1-million new voters he needs. Where will they come from? Not from the DA. And with Zuma gone, not from the ANC. Malema will have to register a whole generation of new voters” (Business Day 29/03/18).
The EFF’s exaggerated expectations were built on a misreading of the 2014 results. Its spectacular 1.3m votes for a party of only 12 months, only matched those of the Congress of the Peoples’ in 2009. This despite the far more favourable conditions in 2014 than those under which Cope contested. The EFF failed to capitalise to its full potential the deep post-Marikana anger of the masses against a deeply divided corruption tainted ANC. This pointed to the limits of its electoral appeal particularly amongst organised workers who have a healthy class suspicion towards a party led by a millionaire who has never worked a day in his life.
In 2016, the EFF could have called for fresh elections after 90 days if an administration was not formed. Instead it installed DA mayors. This rescued the DA, enabling it to claim electoral momentum. It became the DA’s useful idiots – the cheerleaders of its hypocritical propaganda that it runs corruption-free administrations.
The DA/EFF coalitions confirm that the EFF does not take its own anti-capitalist rhetoric seriously. They are a local government dress rehearsal for a national coalition with the ANC in 2019 – an engagement with the monkey in preparation for marriage with the organ grinder.
The EFF since 2016 – a catalogue of betrayals
The EFF’s post-2016 election strategy is driven by two considerations. First, ambition to enter national office in 2019; second, self-preservation to avoid exposure for corruption.
Since 2016 the EFF has:
- Entered into coalitions with DA – a party it denounces as racist agents of “white monopoly capital”.
- Defended Zulu King Zwelithini’s rejection of Expropriation of Land Without Compensation (EWC).The King has subsequently roped-in AfriForum pulling the EFF into an anti-EWC alliance with racists claiming white farmer genocide
- Allied with the House of Traditional Leaders colluding with multinationals exploiting mineral resources at mining communities’ expense
- Through spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s flattering congratulatory birthday tweet to Gatsha Buthelezi, praised the historical role of the IFP leader despite his leading role in the apartheid regime-orchestrated “black-on-black” violence in the 1980s and 1990s
What lies behind the EFF’s anti-Indian racism?
Malema insists that SA’s main problem in SA today is not class but race. But it is the racism in the Indian community that the EFF leadership has singled out. Racism undoubtedly exists in the Indian community. But racism is found in all communities, including Africans, to different degrees. Racist prejudices are rooted in the poverty and social deprivation that continues today beyond apartheid, preserved by the same capitalist system white minority rule served.
For Marxists, it is not only what is said in politics, but by whom and why. The EFF is targeting Treasury Deputy Director Ishmael Monmoniat because he is implementing legislation threatening to expose looting. Accusing him of “undermining African leadership” insults the black director general and his other deputies.
Pravin Gordhan is similarly race-baited for pursuing corruption in state-owned enterprises. The SA Revenue Service “rogue unit” hysteria deflects attention from the investigation into the illicit activities of tobacco outfit, Carnilex, whose director, Adriano Mazzotti, has confessed to corruption, paid the EFF’s IEC registration fee and Malema’s R16 million tax arrears.
EFF attempts to undermine the State Capture Commission members are similarly motivated – the fear of exposure of its links to corruption. Under a new NPA leadership Malema could have his corruption charges reinstated.
How do we answer the EFF’s racist populism?
The first duty of genuine socialists is to promote working class unity of all races around a common platform and programme of action to dismantle the foundations of all prejudice – racial, ethnic, religious, nationalist and gender – the capitalist system.
Such a programme must:
- Lay bare the class divisions within every racial / ethnic / national / religious group showing how the working class in each have more in common with their class brothers and sisters across these boundaries than with the capitalist elite within them
- Explain that these prejudices are fed by working class poverty in each community
- Explain that economic freedom is unattainable under capitalism and requires the socialist transformation of society
- Explain the negotiated settlement aimed to preserve capitalism and open the road for the black bourgeoisie
The EFF does the exact opposite. Having in reality embraced the preservation of capitalism, the EFF is obliged to promote the racial divisions that capitalism has historically relied on with the aim of stopping the working class from uniting and overthrowing it.
The EFF is unlikely to survive action against Shivambu intact. Equally if Malema fails to act, it will damage it even further. Malema is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Those followers hoping against hope the EFF is fundamentally different from the ANC will be more disappointed as it continues taking steps along the path back to the party it came from.
But the EFF’s radical rhetoric does not fool the strategists of capital. Former Business Day editor Peter Bruce warmly welcomed Shivambu’s planned private member’s bill to establish a sovereign wealth fund as marking “an important shift in the EFF’s approach to, and its attitude to, capitalism and the market”. (Business Live 21/05/2018).
The bourgeois is worried Ramaphosa is not up to the job of saving capitalism. Peter Bruce lamented: “Capitalism is our only viable future. But it needs to be bent and shaped to our purposes and I’m not sure he (Ramaphosa) knows how to do it.” (Sunday Times 28/10/18). The ANC may not pass the 50% barrier in 2019. A pro-capitalist alliance of some combination is thus possible. The EFF will be a willing partner in exchange for cabinet positions.
Even if the EFF achieves the 11%-12% of the vote that the latest polls suggest, it is no alternative for the working class. The resolutions of the historic Working Class Summit convened by Saftu in July to form a mass workers party on a socialist programme must be implemented urgently.
Saftu and the Working Class Summit must seize the opportunity!
This article appears as the editorial of the new issue of Izwi Labasebenzi (Issue No. 2 of 2018).
Not since the advent of democracy has the crisis of capitalism and its political parties revealed itself as starkly as it is now. Despite the ANC government’s measures, directed by domestic and international capital, matters are only getting worse. The claims of the stimulus package with no new money and more austerity, the pitiful investment pledges and the job summit promises are all contradicted by reality. Ramaphosa’s budget in effect tipped the economy into recession. Unemployment is now at historic levels edging towards ten million. The bosses are not making any plans to invest or create jobs. Economic growth projections are repeatedly being revised downwards.
The crises in all the major parties – the ANC, DA and increasingly the EFF – are rooted in the reality that capitalism is in a dead end. It must be overthrown. Only the working class has the interest and the capacity to abolish capitalism and lead society towards socialism.
The economic and political crisis underlines the importance of the declarations of the Working Class Summit (WCS) that Saftu convened in July which were endorsed by the federation’s October Central Committee. The summit of 147 working class organisations (see WASP website) adopted a declaration that “a clear majority agreed on a need to build an independent, democratic and revolutionary working-class political party…”. It further agreed that this party must stand for working class power and socialism.
The Saftu Central Committee “…agreed in principle that creation of the working class party is of critical importance…” It emphasised “…that in the current capitalist crises, the only way forward is through building a Workers Party.” We agree and welcome this statement. It reaffirms the necessity for the working class to decisively enter the political battlefield.
Until now, the working class has reacted to the growing economic and political crisis by mass protests on the ground and mass abstention, or tactical voting to punish the ANC, on the political plane. Now, for the first time in the democratic era, the working class has the opportunity to unite its struggles on the ground – in the workplaces, the communities and on the education campuses – and to enter the struggle on the political plane, united, with its own platform and programme of action.
Of crucial importance is Saftu’s and the WCS’s recognition that the primary task is to unite the working class. The creation of a workers party belongs to the entire working class and cannot be the exclusive property of just one section of it. The Summit represented the first steps in assembling the forces capable of uniting the working class in its hundreds of thousands. This is enough to begin.
Party of struggle
Any new party must first and foremost be a party of struggle. The working class is already moving. Workplace strikes and community protests are at record high levels. A new party must connect with these struggles and help to unite them. Both the WCS and Saftu declarations recognise this. It must be this side that is given the overwhelming emphasis in building the new party.
Implicit in the WCS declaration is a recognition of the necessity for a federal structure – one that allows existing working class organisations to affiliate whilst maintaining their own identity, including revolutionary political parties and community organisations. This can allow open and democratic discussions and debates of different working class and revolutionary ideologies. WASP will put forward our views about what the creation of socialism will require and others must do the same.
Federalism does not have to be a ‘once and forever’ principle. But we believe it is a necessary starting point to assure the already existing different political and ideological groupings and community organisations that they are equal participants in a process to create something new together.
Ultimately, it will be the new party’s experience of struggle that will do most to clarify ideas. The new party must be armed with a programme of action on wages, job creation, service delivery and housing, healthcare and education if it is to connect with the mass of working class people.
We believe it is possible to use the upcoming 2019 elections to build momentum for the new party. It does not need to be a ‘finished product’ beforehand. An election campaign can be an act in the creation of the party. Saftu and the WCS organisations are capable of creating an inclusive and democratic process for this. Even a handful of MPs clearly proclaiming for socialism and working class power could electrify the working class. The platform could be used to convene the founding congress of the party with an appeal to every workplace and working class community to send delegates.
Saftu’s follow-up strike demanding a R12,500 minimum wage and against the attacks on the right to strike is planned for the first quarter of 2019 – ahead of the elections must place the creation of a workers party at the centre of that struggle.
Executive Committee statement
Patriarchy – where it is accepted as ‘normal’ for men to dominate and hold authority over women – is a serious problem throughout South African society. It is visible in the sky-high levels of rape and domestic violence, including the murder of women by their partners, sexual harassment in the workplace and on the street, inequality between men and women in pay, career progression, educational achievements and unequal responsibility in the home for domestic chores and care of the young, old and infirm.
Download this statement as a printable pamphlet here.
A key point for Marxists is that this is not a uniquely ‘South African’ problem. Patriarchy has been central to all class societies throughout history. It remains so across the world today under capitalism. We have recently published a detailed analysis of this in Marxist-Feminism: How it Arms Us to Struggle Against Women’s Oppression.
In WASP we are clear that the struggle against capitalism and the struggle against the oppression of women are two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, all forms of oppression, including sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia etc., trace their origins, and continuation, to the class divisions in society. It is not possible for socialists and class conscious workers to struggle against capitalism without embracing the struggle against the different forms of oppression it creates, including patriarchy and the oppression of women. And then, not just in words, but in deeds too. The new women’s movements that have emerged across the world, including #TheTotalShutdown movement here in South Africa, are welcome developments that show the determination, particularly of young women, to struggle against all forms of gender inequality and discrimination.
But Marxists recognize that as long as capitalism exists the working class cannot help being infected, to one degree or another, by the backward ideas and prejudices that class society encourages. A key question for us is how socialists and class conscious workers respond to this reality. In the first instance it requires paying careful attention to how the workers’ movement itself is organised.
Class society treats women as ‘second class’ people. If trade unions are to fight the bosses, and the capitalist system they defend, they must reject this and stand for the full equality of men and women. Any amount of cowardice or half-heartedness in tackling the issue of gender oppression will hold all working class struggles back. Workers understand the necessity for maximum unity in the workplace. But workers are divided as long as sexist attitudes are tolerated within our movement and sexual harassment treated as ‘normal’ or acceptable behaviour. This must be challenged by workplace campaigns and education. But it also means that the culture inside trade unions, at every level, including the conduct and attitude of its leaders must send a clear message – we are against sexism and patriarchy and do not tolerate it in our own house.
The ANC government has set the opposite example. Jacob Zuma was the worst kind of patriarch. In 2005, as deputy-president, he stood trial for the rape of Khwezi, a woman decades younger. The obvious abuse of his personal relationship with her (she was the daughter of a close friend and fellow ANC member), regardless of his acquittal, is the very definition of patriarchy. Zuma’s comment that he protected himself from HIV by “taking a shower” has become infamous as a reflection of his dismissive and unapologetic attitude. But not only did he remain an ANC leader, he was elected ANC president soon after with the support of Cosatu, the ANC Women’s League, and the then Julius Malema-led ANC Youth League.
The ANC Women’s League went so far as to say that Khwezi should “feel lucky to have been raped by such a handsome man”. This underlines that patriarchy is an entrenched social power structure that women themselves can internalise – effectively colluding in gender oppression. That the Women’s League, twelve years later, still has no understanding of the power-dynamics in gender oppression is reflected in their new call for the castration of rapists – as if gender violence is reducible to the ‘uncontrollable’ sexual urges of men.
In 2017, ANC deputy-minister, Mduduzi Manana, was charged with assaulting a woman at a night club. The ANC leadership was extremely slow to respond and allowed Manana to remain an MP after he eventually resigned his ministerial position. All of this sent the signal that for the ANC the oppression of women was not a serious offence and that sexists and patriarchs would be protected. Indeed, key ANC government policies, such as the Traditional Courts Bill, legislate to maintain patriarchy, in effect removing equal rights from women living in rural areas.
Cosatu & Losi
The significance of Zingiswa Losi’s election as Cosatu’s first woman president has been widely commented on. No doubt this was a considerable personal achievement that required withstanding and defying sexist and patriarchal attitudes over many years. But is it a victory for women in general and working class women in particular? The answer is “no” because Losi remains on the same political programme as her male predecessors.
Losi is a member of the ANC’s NEC and the SA Communist Party’s Central Committee. The neo-liberal capitalist policies of the ANC government over the past generation have entrenched unemployment, poverty and inequality in society. This disproportionately affects women, reinforcing gender inequality. Cosatu has betrayed the working class, and working class women in particular, by giving the ANC government a ‘revolutionary’ alibi throughout this time. Losi clearly intends to continue this stance. She and Cosatu have supported Ramaphosa’s austerity budget, fuel price hikes, poverty-level minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike.
It is a massive disservice to the struggle against women’s oppression to suggest that having a woman in ‘high office’ somehow compensates for any of this. It can only distract attention from the enormous responsibility of the ANC government, supported by the leaders of the SACP and Cosatu, in maintaining the conditions for the oppression of women to flourish.
Saftu & Vavi
Many of the workers that have joined the affiliates of the Saftu trade union federation have done so in search of a clean-break from the class collaboration and ineffectiveness of Cosatu and the other federations. There is a burning desire amongst many workers for a genuinely radical and militant trade union alternative. The Saftu strike in April against the ANC government’s attack on workers’ rights and the poverty-level minimum wage put down an important reference point – when all other federations accepted the attack, Saftu alone was prepared to stand-up. The Saftu hosted Working Class Summit in July created another important reference point by bringing together many working class organisations – pointing in the direction of broader working class unity.
Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Saftu, has been closely identified with these achievements. He is a popular figure not just with Saftu members but with the working class in general. This will have added to the disappointment felt by many when they heard that Vavi has again been involved in a sexual harassment scandal, again of a woman working in the organisation he leads – this time of a woman employed by Numsa and working as a cleaner in Saftu’s head office.
Some will be stunned and just want to bury their heads in the sand until it ‘blows over’. Others, especially in the leadership of Saftu and its affiliates, will be tempted to down-play the incident and ‘close ranks’. This latter attitude is indicated in Saftu’s reply to media stories. They confirm that the report is true but put it down to “a misunderstanding”. Rather than showing humility and remorse that such an incident could happen at Saftu’s own HQ, involving its most senior leader, the statement is defensive and lashes out in anger at “faceless individuals” on a so-called mission to “destabilise both Saftu and Numsa”.
There is no doubt that a case of sexual harassment in the top leadership of Saftu, coming so closely after the election of Cosatu’s first woman president, is like a gift from heaven for those wanting to discredit attempts to build an alternative outside of the Tripartite Alliance. It is no surprise that the bosses’ Business Day newspaper ran the story with several quotes from the yellow-union, Limusa, which was formed by a small break-away from Numsa. Limusa’s website has not been updated in over a year but they can find the energy for a press release condemning Vavi! No attention should be paid to the likes of these.
But placing centre-stage the obvious fact that Saftu has political enemies, and obsessing about the motives of those who ‘leaked’ the information about Vavi’s misdemeanour, misses the point – there should have been no incident, ‘misunderstanding’ or otherwise, in the first place! That this is not the main message being communicated reveals a lack of gender consciousness on the part of the Saftu leadership. They are overlooking the power relations that exist between the leadership, which is predominantly male, and women who work in trade unions as cleaners, administrators, officials and organisers. Formerly, trade unions were at the forefront of raising the level of gender consciousness in society as a whole. If Saftu is to distinguish itself from class collaborationist unions, it is its duty to take a primary role in ensuring that sexual harassment is uprooted from all workplaces including its own. In this concrete manner, SAFTU can play a leading role in the struggle against women’s oppression and all its horrific manifestations. WASP condemns Vavi’s behaviour and is dissatisfied with the Saftu leadership’s response.
The generally progressive beginning that Saftu has made is not guaranteed to continue without a full and conscious break with the bureaucratic traditions of Cosatu and the other federations. How a scandal involving a senior leader is handled is of vital importance. That the woman involved reportedly considers the matter resolved and wants no further action must be respected if accurate, but it should not be the end of the story for a responsible and gender conscious leadership. The Saftu leadership needs to send a clear message to the working class, and working class women first and foremost, about the culture and tradition that Saftu intends to build.
If leadership is to be genuinely accountable then, as a minimum, Vavi should be issued with a final warning that any future conduct even hinting at continued sexual misconduct will result in immediate dismissal. But further, Vavi himself should offer to resign, with a democratic process agreed upon whereby the rank-and-file of Saftu’s affiliates can decide whether or not to accept it.
The broader working class’s consciousness on gender issues has been a casualty of the class collaboration of Cosatu and the other federations. By breaking from this Saftu is potentially well positioned to assist in rebuilding it. A new statement that acknowledges head-on that the patriarchy of class society is an issue facing the working class, and that, starting in its own ranks Saftu is determined to combat it, would be an important start. Crucially, proposals for action could be put forward, including on the development of Saftu’s and its affiliate’s gender education programmes and gender structures. This could include gender control commissions, elected by and accountable to union congresses, co-operating across affiliates and working in a clear and transparent manner, that are empowered to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against office holders – from shop stewards to general secretaries. They could submit independent reports to Congresses making recommendations on how to deal with them, including urgent referral to the police in cases of violent and threatening behaviour, maintaining independent oversight over the progress of cases and campaigning against any bias or inadequacies in police procedures.
For WASP’s programme on gender equality click here.
by Weizmann Hamilton, Executive Committee
The Working Class Summit convened by South African Federation of Trade Unions over the weekend of 22-23rd July, 2018, was potentially the most important political development in the workers movement since the dawn of the democratic era. A thousand delegates representing 147 community organisations responded to the call. The overwhelming majority of Working Class Summit delegates resolved in favour of the formation of a workers party to lead the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.
Over the past two decades, working class resistance to the ANC government’s neo-liberal capitalist policies has exhibited a growing militancy. The Department of Labour’s latest report shows that strike figures – including “unprotected” (illegal) actions – are the highest since its records began. At the same time, Municipal IQ and the University of Johannesburg released figures showing that community protests, which had already catapulted SA into the position of protest capital of the world, with the highest number per capita, are now at the highest level ever. After a period of quiescence in the student field following the concession of “free education” a new upsurge in struggles is in the making.
The Working Class Summit (WCS) took place at a time when the scene is being set for an explosive intensification of the struggle between the classes. The ANC’s ongoing struggle between factions equally committed to capitalism has resulted, for now, in the ascendancy of the representative of the wing much more closely aligned to big business. Ramaphosa, arguably capital’s most loyal servant, has taken over the presidential reigns with a clear mandate from his masters – to present the bill for the crisis of capitalism to the working class.
Having reaffirmed his credentials with the blood of the martyrs of Marikana, he has embarked on the most serious assault on working class living standards since the ANC came to power. The most savage austerity budget in the democratic era included an increase in VAT last hiked by the apartheid regime, a fuel levy, the maintenance of the policy to allow the fuel price to increase repeatedly, a sugar tax, and eye-watering cuts in social welfare spending that are set to cut even deeper than the measures taken since the 2008 global economic crisis. The simultaneous amendments to the labour laws, especially the attempt to completely emasculate then right to strike, represents a declaration of class war.
But the unity in action that was the hallmark of the struggle against apartheid has been lacking. In the 1980s such was Cosatu’s political authority that it commanded the respect and support of virtually the entire working class well beyond the boundaries of its membership. Cosatu was the coordinating centre of political and class struggle within the workplace and in the communities with the federation’s locals the organizational expression of the unity in action and solidarity of the township and the workplace.
Today Cosatu is a shadow of its former self. The labour movement fractured, divided between a number of federations and non-aligned unions of varying ideological shades. Workers, both organised and unorganized, have been fighting their battles against the bosses in the workplace, separately from both working class communities mobilizing against corruption, commercialization and privatisation of basic services in the townships and students resisting financial and academic exclusion and for free education.
This disunity is based in the political developments that led to the negotiated settlement at Codesa and afterwards. From the experience of the struggle against white minority rule, the working class had drawn socialist conclusions – that the overthrow of apartheid was inseparable from the struggle against capitalism. Whilst the Codesa negotiations pitted against each other the forces for and against democracy, they simultaneously brought into collision the irreconcilable class interests of the working class and those of the capitalist class. For the capitalist class, the strategic objective of Codesa was the preservation of capitalism; for the working class, the aim was to abolish white minority rule to clear the way for the abolition of capitalism and the socialist transformation of society.
However sharp the antagonism between the ANC (and the other smaller parties on its side) and the Nationalist Party and its allies may have been on the question of democracy, they shared a common class interest – the preservation of capitalism. In this context, a vital element in the ANC’s tactical armoury was the subordination of Cosatu’s class interests to its own capitalist aspirations.
Aided by the SACP’s theory of two-stages – democracy now and socialism in the indeterminate future – the ANC leadership was able to strip Cosatu of its political and therefore class independence to clear the way for the realization of its separate and antagonistic class interests – the creation of the conditions for the development of a black capitalist class. With the consent and active collusion of a captured Cosatu leadership, which was increasingly absorbed into both the state and the corporate world, the working class was condemned to the servitude, exploitation and poverty that marks its life today.
Through the mechanism of the Tripartite Alliance, the ANC, with the SA Communist Party playing a leading role, Cosatu – previously the unquestioned centre of class and political struggle against the apartheid regime – was captured politically. Its ideological edge blunted and stripped of its class independence, Cosatu was emasculated and turned into what many activists contemptuously described as the capitalist ANC’s labour desk.
If the negotiated settlement succeeded in bringing an end to formal apartheid, what it did not, could not and was not intended to end, was class exploitation. That the contradictions between the interests of the working class that brought Cosatu into being and those of the capitalist ANC-led Tripartite Alliance would come to be seen as irreconcilable, was thus built into the foundations of the post-apartheid dispensation.
From it flowed a recognition within the working class that whereas the negotiated settlement had armed them with the right to vote, they were in fact politically disenfranchised. The ANC had come to power to promote the interests not of the working class, but those of the aspirant black capitalist class. Portrayed as an alliance of the black population as a whole to dismantle white minority rule, the Tripartite Alliance came to reveal itself increasingly as an alliance between the black capitalist class and white-dominated capital.
Taking the form initially of a growing stay away from elections, the disillusionment in the ANC reignited the yearning for working class political independence. Never completely extinguished, the yearning for an independent voice for the working class was reflected in the growing demand for Cosatu to form a workers party to contest the ANC in the elections. Initially the view of a minority confined to Numsa at the 1993 Cosatu congress, it increased into to a more substantial 30% within the ANC’s first term of office according to its first survey of shop stewards’ political attitudes in 1998, and into a decisive majority of 67% by 2012 even before the 2012 Marikana massacre.
It is the heroic uprising of the mineworkers in 2012 that cleared the way for the reconfiguration of the alignment of class and political forces. The mineworkers’ strike was more than over the demand for R12 500 minimum wage. It was a political rebellion again the entire establishment – the bosses, the ANC and the Tripartite – dealing a decisive blow to foundations of the negotiated settlement signed at Codesa. The political and class differentiation expressed itself first at Numsa’s 2013 special national congress resolutions to withdraw electoral support from the ANC and to form a workers party. The formation of the Workers and Socialist Party by the Democratic Socialist Movement and the mineworkers national strike committee and, in a distorted form, the emergence of the populist left nationalist Economic Freedom Fighters signaled the maturing of the conditions for a working class political alternative. The declaration of the WCS for a mass workers party on a socialist programme is therefore fully in step with the conclusions of organised workers.
There was, however, understandable hesitation on the idea of the workers party participating in the 2019 elections. The betrayals of political parties throughout the democratic era made delegates wary of what some felt was the corrupting influence of parliament itself and the conversion of the working class into voting fodder.
This decision is also a reaction against the creation of another SACP – a party manufactured behind the backs of the working class, imposed on it as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the working class. Inspired by the counter-revolutionary ideas of Stalin whose regime was established on the crushing of the workers’ democracy on which the Bolshevik government was based, the SACP is a model of precisely the type of party the working class does not need. It has been participating in parliament under the coat tails of the ANC mobilizing the working class through Cosatu, to subordinate the interests of the working class to the class aspirations of their Alliance leader, portraying the anti-working class post-apartheid dispensation as the first, “national democratic” stage towards socialism in the indefinite future.
To maintain such a “vanguard” position, the SACP of necessity had to erect a barrier to internal democracy, prevent workers control and even to impose a limit on its own growth to avoid it developing into a mass formation that would by the logic of the struggle against capitalism inevitably have to mobilize against the capitalist ANC.
The declaration of the WCS for a mass workers party on a socialist programme is in fact an attempt to continue on the path towards toward the reclamation of working class and political independence onto which the mineworkers had set the working class. Had the Numsa leadership proceeded with the implementation of its Special National Congress resolutions to launch a mass workers party, even in 2016, late as that itself would have been, the ongoing disunity within the working class and the emergence of reactionary racist and xenophobic ideas and forces could have been confronted much earlier. Notwithstanding this delay, the birth of Saftu, in which Numsa played a decisive role, moved the caravan of history beyond the “Numsa moment” to its next station – the “Saftu moment”.
That the process is no longer in the hands of Numsa alone, but that of Saftu, is a progressive development. The ongoing reconfiguration of class and political forces is thus no longer the responsibility of Numsa alone, but has been thrust onto the shoulders of the much wider forces represented by Saftu, and following the WCS that of the 147 community organisations that participated in this historic event.
The split in Cosatu that prepared the way for the birth of Saftu was more than just the realization of the desire for a new trade union federation. It was an attempt to retie the knot of history of the revolutionary socialist traditions on which Cosatu was founded and which have been trampled underfoot as a once mighty federation degenerated in the political prison of the Tripartite Alliance.
That the WCS summit was convened within a year of Saftu’s founding, confirms the subterranean class processes at play as the struggle between the bosses and the working class has sharpened and the political process that flow from them pose again the need for working class political independence. Once this step had been taken, the question of a workers party moved firmly back on the agenda.
The summit was preceded by Saftu’s highly successful 25th April national general strike against Ramaphosa’s policies – the first consciously political action against the ANC government. This not only brought the major cities to a standstill, but more importantly, established Saftu as a point of reference, and potentially a new command center to coordinate the struggle against capitalism in the workplace and on the political plane.
WASP played an important role from the onset raising the necessity for working class party political unity at Saftu’s founding congress. The adoption of a resolution to form a workers party and the establishment of Political and Ideological Commission to prepare the way for a workers party confirmed that our views resonated with the majority.
Should the workers party participate in parliament?
WASP fully supports the commitment of the WCS summit to roll out summits provincially and locally throughout the country. We agree similarly that the primary role of these summits is to unite the working class across and within all the main theatres of struggle – the communities, the education sector and the workplace – where the intensifying struggle between the classes is being fought out on a daily basis now and to knit them together into a mass workers party on a socialist programme in line with the declaration.
However, understandable as the hesitation to participate in the 2019 elections is, we believe it would be a mistake not to participate in parliament. That parliament is not the seat of power in a capitalist society is of course correct. The power of the capitalist class, resides, in the final analysis, in the state — the armed men and women, as defined by Engels — in the army, the police, the state security agencies etc.—buttressed by the media, the education system etc.
Moreover, it is not the aim of the aim of the socialist revolution to “capture state power” as the SACP couches its empty threats to stand separately from the ANC. The SACP’s formulation is not accidental. If the socialist state is not yet on the agenda, but must await the completion of the “national democratic revolution”, the SACP can only mean that the working class must “capture” the existing capitalist state. This has absolutely nothing in common with either the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, or the experience of the Russian Revolution and the lessons we must learn from it.
The working class can emancipate itself from capitalist slavery not by reforming the capitalist state as the logic of the SACP’s position dictates. The working class must dismantle the capitalist state as a shop steward expressed it at Cosatu’s founding congress in 1985. The working class must construct in its place its own state based on workers democracy, socialism and international working class solidarity – a state moreover that will set into motion its own dissolution into society to clear the way towards a classless communist society that can come about only on a worldwide basis.
But to interpret the stay away from the polls as indicative of a generalized understanding that parliament is an integral part of the institutions of capitalist class rule, is to mistake the first month of pregnancy with the ninth. Significant as the fact that 147 organisations constituted the WCS, the forces present still represent a minority of both the working class in the workplace and in society broadly. Nor is there yet a generalised socialist consciousness. It would be a serious mistake to confuse the understanding of a conscious minority with that of the broad mass. The task of the forces of the WCS summit is to win over the mass to socialism through a combination of action and, to use Lenin’s phrase, patiently explaining that the problems of exploitation cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism and requires workers power and the socialist transformation of society.
The millions staying away from the elections do so out disillusionment with the political parties that dominate parliament and not with parliament itself. To tear away illusions in parliament, a serious revolutionary socialist mass workers party, must participate in it. But it must do so on its own terms, with its own programme, its own principles and with the purpose of dispelling illusions in it. Above all, participation in parliament must be subordinate to the struggle of the masses against capitalism outside parliament.
Those comrades who cite the Bolsheviks in support of boycotting parliament are misrepresenting the history of the Bolshevik’s strategies and tactics. Lenin criticized the Bolsheviks in the Social Democratic Labour Party (in which they operated as a tendency before establishing themselves as separate, independent revolutionary mass workers party on a socialist programme) for boycotting the 1907 Duma elections in spite of the fact that he denounced it as a “cowshed”. The Bolsheviks continued to send deputies to parliament throughout the period leading up to and even (for a brief period before dispersing the bourgeois Constituent Assembly) beyond the insurrection and conquest of power in October. The Bolsheviks did so to aid those more backward sections of the masses with illusions in parliament to unite with the more advanced workers to ensure maximum unity for the conquest of power. We will deal with this question in greater detail in a future publication. In the meantime we urge comrades to read Lenin’s “Should Bolsheviks participate in bourgeois parliaments?”
We do not accept the argument that there is not time to launch the party in time for the 2019 elections. Both Cope and the EFF were able to secure more than a million votes despite being less than a year old when they stood.
The capitalist crisis is not only economic it is also political. Their main parties, the ANC and the DA are in crisis. The factional civil war in the ANC has flared up again and may prevent it from winning enough votes to form a government on its own. The more far sighted strategists of the capitalist class have recognised that the crisis-ridden DA is not capable of forming an alternative government. They are therefore preparing and encouraging the idea of a collation government in which they are willing to contemplate the EFF as a partner as it increasingly shifts to the right on its key “pillars” – land and nationalization. This will be a pro-capitalist coalition presented to us as necessary to unite an increasingly fractured and divided “nation” – a possible second edition of the Government of National Unity that ushered in the democratic era.
The second edition of a GNU will be as short-lived as the first. As the experience of the local government experiments of coalitions shows, it will be unstable and, more importantly be used to legitimise even more savage attacks on the working class in the name of all of us suffering together to “save the country and the economy.”
The working class will then once again have no voice of its own to resist the attacks the capitalist class is preparing. In the heightened political climate that elections create, the forces of the WCS would be depriving itself of a political platform to reach the twelve million who have not been voting as well as those voting for the ANC out of sentiment, or the EFF and even the DA to punish the ANC.
WASP therefore calls upon the WCS to roll out the launch of provincial and local summits. The 16 September Western Cape meeting calling for a Total Shutdown on 25 September, is an excellent example of how working class communities can be united. Unfortunately it appears there was no direct connection between the WCS summit resolution to roll out provincial and local summits. The resolutions of the Western Cape Total Shutdown meeting correctly resolved that the movement it is establishing will not be allowed to be hijacked by “party political agendas”.
To the extent that this is to inoculate the movement against being hijacked by existing political parties, it is entirely correct. But the absence of a commitment to create a mass workers party, will not guarantee its independence. Like the current Saftu policy of being “independent but not apolitical” ignores the reality the most effective way in which to protect the independence of working class movements is by creating our own party, with our manifesto and our own programme of action. To abstain from the political terrain is to leave it to be dominated by anti-working class forces and to reduce the working class to neutral spectators to the class struggle in which we are the main victims. The fact that the likes of Fedusa are party-politically independent has not shielded it from supporting the anti-working class policies adopted by Nedlac on the minimum wage and the attack on the right to strike.
WASP calls upon the Western Cape Shut down to mobilize both for the total shutdown and to create the framework for a mass workers party in line with the WCS resolutions. Such a party can be created in line with the WC Shut Down principles that it must be based on the principles outlined in its resolutions: that it be owned and lead by our working class communities and is grounded in grassroots practices and processes.
WASP believes the raw material for the manifesto of the workers party contemplated by the WCS is contained in the declaration and summit documents summarizing the main discussions of the commissions as adopted.
To this we would add that all publicly elected representatives should be elected from amongst the ranks of working class communities and workplaces on the principle of a workers representative on a workers wage election subject to the right of immediate recall. We argue furthermore that the workers party be federal, allowing for affiliation of all genuine working class formations without the fear of losing their organizational, ideological and political identity subject to accepting the democratic decisions of the structures at all levels adopted after a full, fraternal and democratic debate.
by Vuyo Mapompo, Flagstaff WASP
Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, is where one particularly witnesses the most disgusting and worst oppression of workers. Mostly in shops. The town itself is filled with independently owned shops. Most of those employers exploit the labour of the workers and subject them to inhumane working conditions.
Workers earn as little as R10 per hour while working 9 hours per day, 7 days a week without a lunchbreak. That amounts to R630 per week, but at Rana Supermarket they were paid as little as R540 per week. This is a shop that has been operating in this town for a number of years under the surveillance of the Department of Labour, who is supposed to inspect these shops regularly to ensure that the shops comply at least with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). One could ask: What were they saying or doing all these years? Why have workers been exploited to such an extent on their watch? These are the questions we should all ask ourselves in order to understand that the workers have no one but themselves to rely on. For so many years workers could not even rely on the Department of Labour to rescue them from the oppression of their employers.
GIWUSA appealed a number of times for the Department of Labour to examine the conditions of the workers in Flagstaff since as early as 2017. During our visits to their offices in Lusikisiki we were informed that the inspectors indeed went to inspect in the whole town, but nothing changed since then.
The fights between the employers and GIWUSA in Flagstaff did not start yesterday. It has been an ongoing battle with a number of challenges for the union. What is even more stressful, and further proof that workers have no one but themselves to rely on, is the fact that even CCMA does not even respond on cases filed by GIWUSA in Flagstaff. We have cases filed as early as March and April this year for which we have received absolutely no response. Who can these workers at least rely on if even CCMA ignores their cries?
A small victory for the Rana workers
At least now the Rana workers will no longer be paid R10 per hour as before. They will now get at least R16 per hour. Starting immediately, the workers will be granted lunch, something they never got since they started working. The labour department had made a commitment to determine the exact amount the employer owes to the workers since they have been underpaid and the employer will have to pay back that money of the workers. The employer has agreed to sign a contract with the employees as permanent workers. The employer will register the workers for UIF and also provide the workers with payslips. The trade union and the employer are still in ongoing negotiations to improve the working conditions of the workers in the workplace.
We encourage all workers of the town in Flagstaff to be organised, join a trade union, and to build a workers committee that will look at all workers issues in the town and organise a campaign against all employers who continue to exploit the workers while paying them close to nothing. The workers must take power to themselves and force employers to comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
Only a united force of the workers will force the Department of Labour, the CCMA, and even the municipality to do their jobs in ensuring the rights of the workers.
Workers of Flagstaff must unite for they have nothing to lose but their chains.
The Workers and Socialist Party held its National Committee in Johannesburg on 1 and 2 September. The meeting was attended by Alec Thraves on behalf of the International Executive Committee of the CWI, the revolutionary socialist international to which WASP is affiliated.
South Africa’s long history of struggle means that many of the most thinking workers across the globe follow developments closely. Alec posed questions to some of those in attendance at the meeting on issues of most interest to workers around the world.
Has the support for the new ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa, that the media has enthusiastically termed “Ramaphoria”, been sustained? Will the ANC retain a majority in the 2019 general election?
Reply from Shaun Arendse, WASP Executive Committee
“Ramaphoria” was a very limited phenomenon. In reality it originated in the desperate hope of the capitalist class that the political and economic instability of the Zuma years could be left behind. This infected a section of the middle class and the media played along, trying to ‘talk up’ the economy, and heralding the start of a so-called ‘new dawn’ for South Africa. But ultimately, the corruption of the Zuma years was a symptom of rotten South African capitalism and not its underlying cause. On the fundamentals Ramaphosa is offering the same old neo-liberal diet. The economy remains stagnant and there have been tens of thousands of job losses since he took office.
Ramaphosa may have come to power on Valentine’s Day but there is no love, or even any real enthusiasm for him, amongst the working class – ‘Ramaphoria’ has barely touched them. Especially amongst organised workers and activists Ramaphosa is viewed as an out-and-out big business politician. His is also remembered as the ‘butcher of Marikana’, where, in 2012, as a shareholder of platinum mine Lonmin, and a senior ANC leader, he demanded the police minister identify a mineworkers’ strike as a “criminal act” and take “concomitant action”. The next day 34 mineworkers were gunned down at Marikana.
In Ramaphosa’s first months as president, parliament passed new anti-trade union legislation increasing the power of the courts and unelected commissioners over strikes and introducing restrictive picketing rules and secret strike ballots. Failure to comply can lead to trade unions being deregistered. He has not left much room for doubt that that bosses have got ‘their man’ in the job.
A general election must be called between May and August 2019. The move to replace Zuma ahead of these elections was in large part driven by the ANC leadership’s fear that they could lose their majority in this election with him at the helm. In the 2016 local government elections the ANC’s vote slid to just 54%. There is no doubt that the ANC will emerge from the 2019 elections as the biggest party but it is possible that they could lose their majority posing a coalition government. Ramaphosa has not been the guarantee against this that many ANC politicians expected.
However, the dominant trend amongst the working class and poor is to abstain in elections. The left-populist Economic Freedom Fighters has been unable to significantly increase its support and the main opposition Democratic Alliance, with its roots in the white middle class, has been embroiled in damaging factional fights reinforcing its image as a ‘white boys club’. However, there could be a certain ‘swing’ back to the ANC from a section of the black middle class alienated by this and a section of the white middle class may be willing to vote for Ramaphosa ‘the man’, if remaining unenthusiastic about his party. This, in the absence of a mass working class alternative, combined with low turnout, could see the ANC hold on to a slight majority.
There are already three major trade union federations in South Africa, COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU so isn’t the recent formation of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) just going to add further divisions?
Reply from Lebohang Phanyeko, National Organiser of SAFTU (personal capacity)
The other three Federations are led by South Africa’s labour aristocracy who are chaining the organised workers and frustrating them. These so-called workers leaders are determined to keep the status quo and SAFTU’s birth represents a new, fresh hope for organised workers.
I don’t think workers will be more divided because they will and are joining SAFTU as a new fighting, socialist Federation.
The last general strike, called by SAFTU in April, saw workers from the other trade union federations join and participate in the strike despite the opposition of their leaders.
I believe that SAFTU can gradually unite the working class in South Africa where conditions, wages and retrenchments are worsening every day.
SAFTU’s key focus must be on the 76% of workers who don’t belong to a union because the other federations just ignore them so we must urgently recruit and organise them.
For several months Cape Town has faced a water shortage crisis with severe restrictions put in place. What has been the reaction of city residents?
Reply from Rose Lichtenstein, Cape Town WASP
The water (mis)management crisis in Cape Town rightfully became a ‘common ground’ issue for all layers of the South African working class to organise around. Resistance came in all forms, some successful, others ignored.
Some communities managed to completely block any installations of the dehumanising water management devises that the government have rolled out in their thousands every week. Petitions and protests have helped in the reduction of water charges but has been ineffective so far in bringing a much needed revolutionary restructuring of the water supply system and its funding which residents identified were at the root cause of the crisis.
With dams now filling beyond expectations some wealthier residents have fallen away from the struggle but WASP has committed itself to building amongst the forces who continue to see no relief despite the rains and are continuing to build ‘crisis committees’ in their communities.
Currently we have a powerful force in the Water Crisis Coalition which was formed at the peak of the drought last January and will continue to assist in the struggle for an accessible and affordable water supply in Cape Town.
The ‘Total Shutdown’ demonstrations in August (Women’s month in South Africa) mobilised thousands of women protesting against the widespread abuse, rape, violence and murder of women across South Africa. What role did WASP play in this movement?
Reply from Phemelo Motseokae and Ferron Pedro, WASP’s women’s caucus
Women in South Africa are paying a horrendous price for living in a brutalised, violent and poverty stricken society.
Horrifically, in a country of just 57 million, one women is killed every 4 hours! Even more disturbing is the fact that 50% of these murders are committed by the women’s partners.
The South African police service has reported the grotesque statistics that a rape takes place every 36 seconds across the country and yet there is only a 4-8% conviction rate!
Our WASP’s women’s caucus wrote an article in preparation for the #TotalShutdown protests explaining our position on the issue of violence against women, relating it to the class issues in society and presenting our specific demands.
Our women cadres attended the march in Pretoria and distributed 500 pamphlets and sold-out of our magazine Izwi. The contacts we received were invited to our branch meeting where we discussed ‘The struggle against women’s oppression’.
We will be collaborating with our comrades in the General Industrial & Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) and organising some WASP women’s meetings where issues facing women can be discussed out with a socialist alternative on offer.
How important is the ‘land question’ amongst the urban working class and does WASP support the demand of the ANC & EFF for land ‘expropriation without compensation (EWC)?
Reply from Trevor Shaku, Bloemfontein WASP
People want land mainly for residential and economic purposes. The fact that racial inequalities still persist also mean that some people want land from a historical and moralist standpoint i.e. to correct the historical injustice of land dispossession. From this angle, a huge bulk of the masses do not think we should compensate. We want land to be owned commonly by the people under the democratic management of the working class and communities.
The fact is that the majority of our people live as rentees of shacks in the backyards of smaller plots in the urban areas, so the expropriation of land will help solve this problem. However, land expropriation must go hand in hand with mass housing projects. We call for the nationalisation of the commercial farms as a step in the direction of organising production. As far as compensation is concerned, it must be conditional. Absolutely no compensation for the big landowners and corporation chiefs who have exploited us for generations but compensation should be considered on the basis of proven need for localised farmers and the smallest shareholders.
Service Delivery protests in the townships has reached its highest ever level, increasing from one protest every second day nationwide to three or four every single day! Why has there been such a dramatic increase?
Reply from Executive Mukhwevo, Ennerdale community activist
South Africa has been experiencing service delivery protests for more than 20 years, since the dawn of our ‘new era’. These struggles are centred around housing, land and the lack of social service delivery in general.
In and around the Soweto townships the protests have skyrocketed to the level of a Gauteng Provincial shutdown in 2017. This forced the government to succumb to the pressure because it was accompanied by many deaths. The citizens were demanding the presence of both spheres of government and for the national and local government representatives to answer to their demands.
In their responses, these combination of crooks just used the usual excuses which are always the obstacles to the provisions of service deliveries. And as usual they promised to the people that within 3 months most of the matters they raised would be attended to. However, to this day nothing has ever happened and not a single matter has been attended to and the service delivery struggle goes on.
After 5 years of dragging its feet, it appears that NUMSA, South Africa’s largest trade union, will be launching the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party in December. What is WASP’s approach to this development?
Reply from Sheri Hamilton, Greater Eldorado Park United Civic Movement
Our attitude towards the SRWP is that if it wants to play a role in filling the working class political vacuum then it should be open, democratic and built on the basis of a federal structure, which unfortunately is not the case at the moment. We believe that the only way we can persuade other working class formations to unite under one banner in time for the 2019 General Election is to adopt this approach.
However, there is still time over the next few months to implement the decision of Working Class Summit convened by Saftu and roll out Provincial Assemblies where a platform of minimum demands can be agreed for a new workers party.
What impact has the #Outsourcing Must Fall (#OMF) movement had since its formation?
Reply from Mametlwe Sebei, President of GIWUSA (Personal capacity)
#OMF mobilised thousands of outsourced workers across the country in the struggle to end their precarious work and poverty wages. The campaign was initiated by WASP because none of the trade unions were taking up fight against outsourcing.
The campaign organised workers into shop floor committees that coordinated workers across different sectors such as cleaners, secretaries, electricians, security guards etc on a city wide basis.
In Tshwane, where the campaign started, it won massive victories including at the University of Pretoria where workers who were previously outsourced and employed on short-term contracts and poverty pay of R2,500 were insourced with permanent contracts, increased benefits and a 300% wage increase over 3 years!
#OMF, by winning over workers previously unorganised, has contributed to revitalising the organised labour movement. Thousands of new members have joined GIWUSA and the new left trade union federation SAFTU to which the campaign is now affiliated.
WASP members will be participating in the #TotalShutdown marches organised for 1 August.
by WASP Womens Caucus
The Medical Research Council of South Africa revealed in 2017 that it is women who are among the poorest 20% of society that experience the most violence. SAPS 2016/17 reported that a woman is raped every 36 seconds and in 2015 Stats SA found that almost 61% of femicide cases take place at the woman’s home. About 150 women report being raped to the police daily. Fewer than 30 of the cases will be prosecuted, and no more than 10 will result in a conviction – this translates into an overall conviction rate of 4% – 8% of reported rape. Many women do not report rape because of the poor conviction rate. Movements like #MeToo have clearly demonstrated that rape is a problem throughout the world. Women are sexually assaulted by their bosses, their partners and strangers. Despite this impunity, some men claim they now fear “flirting” with women because of these reports. Sexual harassment is downplayed by those like former president Jacob Zuma who said “When men compliment you innocently, you say its harassment.”
Too little is done to make society a safe environment for women and children. As well as discrimination, the brutality brought to bear on women is extended to LGBTQI people in the form of “corrective” rape, mob killings and in some countries, the death sentence. LGBTQI groups experience oppression under capitalism because they ‘threaten’ family structures that help to reproduce class inequality through the subjugation of women to men and other forms of discrimination including race, ethnicity, religion and nationality.
Gender based violence is one of the many features of a patriarchal class society. Men hold power over women and are supported in this, by culture, religion and educational institutions as well as the media. When this ‘soft power’ fails, their dominance is exercised through violence to either control or punish or silence women. For centuries, female genital mutilation in Africa has been practiced as part of culture, so also was the binding of women’s feet in China, honour killings in India, witch burnings in Europe and many more horrific crimes that continue to this day despite being outlawed in many countries.
Patriarchy has given men a false sense that “manhood” is exercised through violence, control and subjugation of women especially when they are being badly treated at work or feel powerless in society. The sense of alienation of capitalism also explains suicide levels among men that are five time higher than among women. Furthermore, men too, are affected by this violence against their daughters, mothers and wives and to a lesser extent, against themselves. This is why men’s movements like #NotInMyName surfaced precisely from the understanding that it is our collective responsibility to fight oppression and inequality, most importantly the very system that breeds and continues to perpetuate it. Oppression of women and the LGBTQI community, which are distinct features of capitalism, needs to end now. The struggle for freedom and equality is necessarily a struggle to do away with capitalism and bring forth a socialist society so we can bring about permanent change and equality for all regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation. This can only be achieved by struggles led by the working class (both men and women) for the total transformation of society.
We campaign for the following:
- Campaign and fight for equal pay for equal work; fight for paid parental leave for all workers (men and women); fight for free, state-funded and high-quality pre-school education for all; fight for high-quality, accessible shelters for survivors of domestic abuse and rape and create the freedom to leave abusive relationships. Link up with the trade union movement.
- Build democratic, accountable mass community organisations in every community.
- Participate in Community Policing Forums and fight for community oversight of policing to combat corruption and ensure all reports of GBV are taken seriously and dealt with professionally and quickly; organise community watch programmes under the democratic control of community organisations with the mass participation of the community.
- Community organisations to campaign against domestic violence and rape in communities; community-watch programmes to take up defence of women with the full participation of women.
- Community organisations to campaign against hate crimes against LGBTQI people, including corrective rape; community watch programmes to take up defence of LGBTQI people with the full participation of LGBTQI people.
- Campaign for training on gender-based violence for all law enforcement and court officials
- Campaign for adequate resources to investigate and stop human trafficking.
- End the class foundations of gender inequality. Nationalise under democratic working class and community control the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and big businesses for a publicly owned and democratically planned socialist economy to meet the needs of all.
- Forge the fighting unity of the working class in a party of mass struggle. Build a socialist mass workers party to unite the struggles of the workplaces, the communities and the youth as a vital step toward the creation of a mass revolutionary party.
by Sheri Hamilton Executive Committee
The SA Federation of Trade Unions’ 25 April national strike potentially signals a decisive shift in working class struggle. The estimated 100,000 workers silenced Saftu’s critics. Millions now look to Saftu as an alternative to Cosatu and as a point of reference.
This was in fact the first conscious political general strike against the ANC government post-apartheid. The Cosatu-led general strikes against Gear and privatization, as well as the public sector strikes of 2007 and 2010, were against particular policies of its alliance partner – the ANC government. Whilst the 25 April strike was called to oppose the new poverty-level minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike, there is no doubt that for the workers taking part, this strike was a rejection of both the ousted Zuma-led -ANC and the “new” Ramaphosa one. This poses the question of a workers’ party.
The ANC leadership under Ramaphosa remains firmly committed to neo-liberalism. The ground continues to be prepared for a social explosion. In anticipation, the strategists of capital are preparing for a possible coalition government from some combination of the DA, ANC and even the EFF. The working class is lagging behind.
The political vacuum on the left has been magnified by the degeneration of the SACP-led Cosatu. In reality the early Cosatu was a quasi-workers party in the struggle against apartheid and capitalism. Saftu’s challenge now is to complete the retying of the knot of history politically and ideologically. In 1982, Joe Foster, general secretary of Cosatu’s predecessor, Fosatu, warned prophetically that the lesson of independent Africa was that unions should protect their independence against capture by post-colonial governments.
However, Foster did not draw the conclusion of the need for a workers’ party that his position implied. Recognising that this was the logic of his argument, the SACP denounced Foster for not recognising it as the “vanguard” of the working class.
The SACP “vanguard” barred the way to the development of an independent workers party, captured Cosatu and trapped it in the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance. Acting as the shock troops of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – the first stage of the bankrupt two-stage theory –they engineered the derailment of a potential socialist revolution. Confused by the SACP, the Cosatu leadership was absorbed into the capitalist state.
Marikana exposed the ANC as the party of capital like nothing before. But even before the massacre, a survey of shop stewards showed support for Cosatu to form a workers party had reached 65%. The mineworkers’ support for the launch of WASP, NUMSA’s 2013 Special National Congress resolutions and the significant increase in the number of communities standing independently in elections confirmed this. The working class was yearning for is its own party.
Unfortunately, despite all of this, Saftu’s “independent but not apolitical” policy goes no further than Foster in 1982. But unlike Foster, Saftu has the benefit of the experience of 24-years of ANC rule.
Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa’s collaboration on the national minimum wage and attacks on the right to strike shows that abstention from party politics does not guarantee independence. Independence is a class question. Political parties represent the interests of classes or fractions of them. Cosatu’s betrayal was caused by collaborating with a capitalist party – the ANC. Saftu must form an alliance with a political party with a programme based on the interests of the working class. By concluding from the experience of the struggle against corruption that it will be necessary to remove the ANC government in the North West Saftu is reinforcing the need for a workers party.
Party of struggle
The SACP imposed itself on the working class as a pre-fabricated “vanguard’ with a programme manufactured behind the backs of the working class, shielding itself from accountability. A genuine workers party must answer the question: “how do we take our struggles forward?” Therefore it must become the furnace that forges the fighting unity of the working class; it must be a party of struggle.
What must be the party’s guiding political principle? In our view a socialist programme is the only possible one – the aim of a society run by and for the working class. The foundation for this is the call for the nationalisation under democratic working class control of the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the big factories and other big businesses. A new workers party must be based on a programme of action that links the immediate issues faced by the working class to the need to fundamentally transform society on a socialist basis As an example, we propose that the struggle for a living wage be championed by the new party through a demand like this:
Organise the workplaces to win R12,500! Build industry- and sector-wide action-committees that unite workers in a campaign of rolling mass action. Lock-out the bosses in non-complying industries through workplace occupations that demand nationalisation under workers control. Mass defiance of laws that stop workers defending themselves.
We propose the new party works out similar demands for the struggles (1) to end unemployment, (2) win service delivery and houses, (3) high quality free health care, and (4) genuinely free and decolonised education.
A new party must allow for open and free debate, maximum democracy, collective development of a manifesto and programme of action. As well as individual membership, the party must have a federal component allowing for the fighting unity of existing working class organisations. The party’s leadership must be elected on the principles of the right of recall and that a workers’ representative must earn only a workers wage.
The Working Class Summit initiated by Saftu for 21-22 July must place on its agenda the question of consciously filling the political vacuum with a new party – a vacuum Saftu’s own 25 April strike again underlined.
This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.
by Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee
The ANC’s May 2018 Land Summit has referred a proposal to amend its Expropriation Bill to its NEC to allow for expropriation of land without compensation (EWC). Then the Constitutional Court will be asked to test it for compliance with Clause 25 – the Property Clause. Malema has offered his party’s 6% to the ANC’s 62% to achieve the two-thirds threshold to amend the constitution.
Predictably the white right has spread alarm amongst urban and rural whites of impending doom – land invasions, home dispossessions and an escalation of the toxic myth of white farmer genocide. The DA has denounced EWC as theft and a violation of the sanctity of private property. Even the normally sober capitalist, Business Day has indulged in histrionics: “land expropriation, a reason to panic” (Peter Bruce). A “desperate, terrible, historic land mistake”, editor Tim Cohen lamented (BusinessLive 05/03/2018).
Whether the ANC Land Summit’s approach will result in a constitutional amendment, remains to be seen. The ANC, however, is not waiting for the ConCourt process. There is consensus amongst legal experts, including the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and Acceleration of Fundamental Change, (HLP) led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, established in 2017. The Property Clause neither prohibits EWC nor insists on the “willing seller, willing buyer” principle or that “just and equitable” compensation necessarily means “market value”.
The Gauteng Government will now immediately start identifying unused land for “rapid release”. It will implement a “site-and-service” programme, and distribute title deeds weekly on “Title Deed Friday”.
Will EWC achieve economic emancipation, the correction of the historical injustice caused by the “original sin” of colonial and apartheid land dispossession?
Inequalities in wealth rooted in class, not race
Black nationalists claim ALL whites own SA’s wealth. It is of course true that the apartheid social pyramid – whites at the top, Indians below them and coloureds further down, closest to black Africans – still persists today. But superimposed upon massive racial inequalities are class inequalities. In fact the fastest growing inequality is amongst blacks.
This applies also to land ownership. Only 8% of whites live in rural areas. The claim that ALL whites own the country’s wealth and land is false. Only a tiny minority within the white population today, as under apartheid, owns the majority of wealth in general and land in particular.
The EFF is providing the ANC with an alibi for its betrayals. In fact the greatest indictment against the ANC is that under it, black land dispossession without compensation has continued uninterrupted.
Gear – the original sin
The Growth Employment and Redistribution policy (Gear) has had a catastrophic effect. In the cities expectations of a decent life for all were betrayed. In the rural areas the ANC land policy’s three main planks – redistribution, restitution and tenure reform – failed.
The “opening up” of SA’s agricultural markets under Gear threw established white and emerging black farmers into the shark-infested waters of neo-liberal global capitalism. Gear-dictated public spending cuts meant the Land Reform budget, which never exceeded 1%, is today at its lowest level ever – 0.4% –only 0.1% for land redistribution. Only 9% of land has been redistributed.
Addressing Parliament’s Land Reform Portfolio Committee, Dr Aninka Claassens, UCT Land and Accountability Research Centre director, pointed out that land tenure is more insecure than under apartheid. The few who obtain redistributed land remain tenants of the state with “conditional use rights” subject to “productivity”.
The land reform budget and farms are subject to elite capture. At the present rate it will take another 40 years to complete restitution “…if land claims are reopened and the expected 397,000 claims are lodged, it will take more than 700 years.” (Daily Maverick 15/03/18) Corruption means no support for land restitution.
White farmers exposed to escalating farming costs, have evicted hundreds of thousands of workers and tenants, accelerating urban migration. Squatter camps have mushroomed as public spending caps have created a massive housing backlog. There have been over 4,000 land occupations over the past two years. This shows that in urban areas they are driven by the need for housing, jobs, access to health and education.
As Mmatlou Kalaba, University of Pretoria Agricultural Economics lecturer points out: The apartheid regime had supported the white farming sector through direct subsidies, cooperatives, commodity boards, input subsidization, preferential Land Bank financing terms, tariff protection, guaranteed market access through agricultural control boards and profits through price controls. Dismantling this system completely, the ANC government opened up the agricultural and food markets beyond World Trade Organisation accession criteria. Today only 13% of the Land Bank’s loan book clients are black.
Today agricultural production is monopolised by a handful of conglomerates in turn controlled by finance capital. “…about 40,000 large-scale, capital-intensive and corporatised operations produce 91% of agricultural production. They, and their retail and value chain counterparts, control the availability, price, quality and nutritional value of what we eat, not the indebted small commercial farmers.” (Businesslive 12/03/18).
These corporations are in turn controlled by the banks: Standard Bank, First Rand, Nedcor, Investec, and international institutions banks like JP Morgan Securities and RMB Morgan Stanley control on average 70% of the agricultural value chain. (Uncensoredopinion.co.za 13/07/17)
ANC continues black land dispossession
For colluding with colonialism and apartheid the pre-capitalist traditional leaders faced armed resistance, most famously the late 50s Pondoland Uprising. Instead of dismantling these institutions, the ANC legitimised, funded and expanded them. Traditional leaders collude with big business and multinational corporations in pillaging mineral resources, destroying the environment and exploiting rural populations. Black rural dwellers find themselves today as tenants on this communal land. They have no title, no right or means to develop the land and under constant threat of eviction.
The Royal Bafokeng Nation’s (RBN), control of platinum mines profits, is riddled with corruption the former public protector found. The Ngonyama Trust, of which King Goodwill Zwelithini is sole trustee, encompassing 30% of KwaZulu Natal’s most fertile land was given to the Zulu Royal House in secret by De Klerk the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Gatha Buthelezi, the king’s uncle, a week before the 1994 elections to persuade him to participate.
Tenants are given “Permission to Occupy” (PTOs) certificates – an apartheid invention. The Trust netted R96 million in 2016/17 from developer fees. The Trust now plans to replace PTOs with 40-Year lease agreements. Rent defaulters’ leases will be cancelled, their assets expropriated without compensation for improvements.
Ramaphosa’s insistence that EWC should not threaten “food security” is a signal to big business that they will not be subject to EWC. King Zwelithini has threatened to build up a financial war chest to resist any attempt to wind up the Ingonyama Trust Land as recommended by the Motlanthe-led HLP. Immediately after his State of the Nation EWC announcement, Ramaphosa reassured the House of Traditional Leaders that they remain the recognised custodians of traditional land. At the Land Summit, he apologized for Motlanthe’s description of traditional leaders as “village tin-pot dictators” in effect repudiating the HPL’s recommendations.
The RBN’s court action against the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs shows traditional leaders consider themselves accountable neither to the government nor their “subjects”. The RBN insists it is the lawful custodian of over 60 properties and do not need to consult.
The EFF completely agrees with Ramaphosa on the property of big business traditional leaders. National spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi stated on Sharpeville Day that the EFF has no intention of touching private property (Huffington Post 21/10/18). Both the ANC NEC and the EFF have responded to King Zwelithini’s threats by offering conciliation and talks.
Only socialism can eradicate poverty, inequality and mass unemployment
It is possible, even likely, that there will be some land expropriation without compensation with or without a constitutional amendment. Facing a possible election defeat in 2019, the ANC is in desperate need to be seen to be doing something different, even radical, to secure electoral support.
But EWC will not eradicate inequality, unemployment, poverty or even homelessness. In embracing EWC Ramaphosa is not repudiating neo-liberal capitalism. He is renewing the ANC’s vows with it. His budget was the most savage austerity since 1994. The fear of a rating agency downgrade means there will be no increased social spending.
Land ownership does not provide jobs, access to decent health, education or affordable services. Ramaphosa’s commitment to protecting food security is meaningless for the 15 million who go to bed hungry every night or the 18% of African children (20% coloured, 7% Indian and even 7% white) who suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
The Gauteng Provincial Government’s site and service scheme will not exempt title deed holders from the ever rising cost of services. It is also an abdication of its responsibility to provide housing. Those able to afford a mortgage are at risk of dispossession by the banks. 1000 houses are repossessed every month. The capitalists are in fact implementing their own EWC in both the farms and the cities.
The banks, agri-business, industry, construction, commerce are all inextricably linked together in the reproduction of poverty and inequality. It is not the constitution that stopped the ANC from implementing genuine radical economic transformation – the nationalization of the agricultural and financial cartels that dominate food production, distribution and sales under the democratic control and management of the working class. It is its commitment, shared with the EFF, to capitalism. The Property Clause is a diversion – an attempt to infect the masses with the constitutional cretinism they suffer from.
This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.