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For a united working class movement against prejudice & discrimination
Bishop Dag Heward-Mills caused controversy during his guest sermon at the Grace Bible Church on Sunday when he told the congregation that homosexuality was “unnatural”. Somizi Mhlongo, a member of the congregation and a gay man, walked out of the church in outrage at the remarks. He later posted a video online of himself passionately explaining that he was offended because far from being “unnatural”, he was born gay, and that issues of his faith’s compatibility with his sexuality were a private matter for him to deal with. Below, Hazard, WASP member in the North West, comments on the homophobic prejudices which, unfortunately, are still widespread.
Homophobia deeply infests language and society. Hatred, fear, dislike and prejudice towards homosexuals is expressed daily in terms of abuse such as “fag” and “morfee”, thrown around in workplace corridors, community alleys, places of worship, and in social media comments The choice of words, even spoken over the cradle of a child, such as “act like a man”, “you are not a girl”, and many others, prepares them for a world of anti-gay stereotypes. Debating “nature or nurture” is irrelevant and offensive.
Historically, the ruling class has used religion to defend the inequalities and class divisions in society. They often encourage the idea that the rich need only to give to charity and the poor can accept their poverty happy in the belief of a better after life. This is why religion must be a private affair. The question of the ‘truth’ of scripture depends on who is interpreting it. Priests and pastors should not bring their own prejudices and present them as divine revelation. Many working class people will be firm in their conviction that their faith should not become a means for justifying the oppression of others.
Homosexual people should be able to expect full equality in society without facing prejudice. Socialists fight for a society where every person belongs and is able to thrive regardless of class, race, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. A humane society would allow every person to hold any view and live any lifestyle that they desire.
The liberation of all people facing oppression and prejudice must be taken up by the workers movement. For a socialist, homophobia is a grave crime. Socialists must be at the forefront in the fight for gay rights. To not stand up against all forms of oppression creates the space for the ruling class to divide us, weakening our struggle for better living conditions and a better future. Whilst many gains can be won to improve the situation facing gay people now, genuine equality can only be achieved in a socialist society. Serious mass protests should meet all homophobic persons, whether a pastor or a politician, who tries to spread their divisive views.
VENUE: US Consulate
ADDRESS: 1 Sandton Drive (opposite Sandton City), Johannesburg
TIME: from 5pm
DATE: Friday, 20 January
Solidarity with the American working class!
Build a global united working class movement against imperialism and reaction
Friday will see the biggest protests in the United States to ever welcome the inauguration (swearing in to office) of a new president, the billionaire Donald Trump. American Workers, women’s rights groups, black civil rights groups, immigrant organisations and LGBTQ activists will hold protests and rallies across the United States. Protests are planned at embassies and consulates across the world.
In the American city of Seattle, a mass walkout of school and college students is planned. Socialist Alternative, WASP’s sister party in the US has been at the heart of organising these protests. The day after Trump was elected in November, Socialist Alternative was key to mobilizing 40,000 people onto the streets in a number of US cities.
Trump will take office despite losing the popular vote due to the undemocratic electoral system in the US. Not only did Trump lose the popular vote, but nearly half of Americans didn’t vote in the first place, so disgusted where they with the election campaign. There is little support for Trump’s reactionary agenda. In America, just like South Africa, there is an enormous political vacuum. Trump is a warning to the working class across the world of what can happen if that vacuum is not filled with a socialist alternative.
The Workers and Socialist Party is calling on people to picket outside the US Consulate in Sandton, Johannesburg, on Friday afternoon to coincide with Trump’s inauguration ceremony. A period of mass struggle is opening up in America. We call on all those opposed to imperialism and Trump’s sexist and racist agenda to join us and show our solidarity with our American class brothers and sisters. A united movement can defeat Trump and his reactionary agenda!
As 2017 opens, the Workers and Socialist Party continues to stand in solidarity with the struggles of the working class, poor communities and the youth and students. We will not offer any false words and empty promises like the capitalist politicians in their new year statements. For the working class, 2017 will be a ‘prosperous year’ only if we are united, organised and prepared to struggle.
President Zuma has promised that “collaboration between business, labour and government” will continue in 2017. This will not give workers any optimism! The last “collaboration” resulted in the agreement of 2016’s insulting poverty-level R3,500 minimum wage. Many workers, who scandalously earn less than R3,500 will of course welcome an increase no matter how small. But we warn workers that they will have to organize and fight for even this low wage to be implemented.
The legislation improving the rights of outsourced, contract and labour broker workers sat on the shelf for nearly a year without the bosses moving a finger. It was only when WASP initiated the #OutsourcingMustFall movement that their exploitative system began to be seriously challenged. In 2017, we are committed to continuing and escalating the #OutsourcingMustFall struggle but also expanding it to a campaign fighting for a living wage for all low-paid workers.
The struggle for free education will continue in 2017. To take that struggle forward, the Socialist Youth Movement has been active throughout the holiday period organising a #FeesMustFall conference for the new year. Building a united free education movement remains top of the agenda for the students. But also, the new generation is drawing important and far-reaching political conclusions about the dead-end of capitalism in general. The unity between the students and the working class must continue to be strengthened in 2017.
The wealth is there for decent wages, full employment, quality service delivery and free education. The world’s richest 500 capitalists increased their wealth in the course of 2016 by an additional $237 billion. This handful of people now has combined wealth of $4.4 trillion. Despite the stagnant economy here, 2016 produced a new richest man in Shoprite chairman Christo Wiese. He is ‘worth’ $7 billion (around R100 billion). This news will enrage the Shoprite distribution centre workers who have been fighting for over two years to end Shoprite’s labour broking regime and improve poverty wages. Wiese’s wealth is built on their super-exploitation.
World and South African capitalism remain in crisis. The election of the reactionary Donald Trump to the United States presidency will add to the instability across the globe. Here in South Africa, we can expect another year of intensifying political crises in the run up to ANC’s December conference. Zuma will most likely be replaced as ANC leader, either by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, part of Zuma’s inner circle, or Cyril Ramaphosa, the billionaire ‘butcher of Marikana’. Whoever wins, the gulf between the ANC and the working class and poor masses will only widen, deepening the crisis of the ANC in the run up to the 2019 elections.
We will enter 2017 with the vacuum on the political plane and in the workplaces unfilled. Important steps will likely be taken towards creating a new trade union federation in 2017. Its success will depend on it being prepared to give a lead to the working class by organising mass struggles on wages, labour broking and job creation and putting forward a bold socialist alternative to the poverty, inequality and unemployment of capitalism. Millions refused to vote for any of the political parties on offer in last year’s local government elections. The need for a socialist mass workers party remains as urgent as ever to unite the struggles of workers, communities, and the youth struggling for free education. WASP will continue to do all it can to help bring such a party into being.
It is possible that the metalworkers’ union Numsa will take an initiative to launch a workers party in 2017. It is still unclear exactly what its character will be or if it will adopt an approach that attracts broad groups of workers and youth. Our relationship to any new initiative will be decided once the Numsa leadership unveils the details. As has always been the case, we will welcome any genuine step forward. But whatever happens, the need for WASP will remain. We have always been clear that a mass workers party is an important step in the re-organisation of the working class, allowing ideas, campaigns and tactics to be debated and tested. But it is still only a step. Ultimately, to replace capitalism with socialism a mass revolutionary party with a clear Marxist programme is needed. WASP builds itself as an embryo of such a future party.
In his new year’s address, Zuma pledged to celebrate two centenaries (100 year anniversaries) in 2017 – the birth of Oliver Tambo and the sinking of the SS Mendi. The Mendi was a ship carrying over 800 black soldiers to the European battle fields of World War I to be slaughtered alongside millions more working class people in the interests of the imperialist powers. This is certainly worthy of commemoration.
But there is a far more important anniversary to celebrate in 2017 – one hundred years since the 1917 Russian Revolution led by Lenin, Trotsky and the revolutionary Bolshevik Party. We continue to regard this as the greatest event in human history so far. The working class, the flower of which was organised in the Bolsheviks and armed with a Marxist programme, overthrew capitalism and created a regime of workers’ democracy and socialist economic planning capable of raising the living standards of the masses. Throughout 2017 WASP will be celebrating this anniversary, not least of all to defend it against those, like Zuma, who wish to ignore it, but also against those who wish to distort its legacy. But the best way to honour the heroism of the Russian working class is to follow in their footsteps.
In 2017 we call on the working class to work alongside us to build strong foundations for a new socialist trade union federation by building the #OutsourcingMustFall and living wage campaigns and to continue supporting the Socialist Youth Movement and other student activists to build the #FeesMustFall campaign. In 2017 we will work with community activists and aim to take an initiative for the creation of a country-wide socialist civic federation to lead a mass struggle for decent quality service delivery. But we also call on all working class fighters, community and student activists to join WASP and help us lay the basis for a future mass revolutionary party of the working class able to lead the socialist transformation of society.
A Presidency of chaos and struggle
By Philip Locker and Tom Crean, Socialist Alternative (CWI in USA)
Socialist Alternative is the United States affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International – the sister party of the Workers and Socialist Party. They played a key role in mobilising 40,000 protesters onto the streets of New York, Boston, Seattle and other American cities, less than 24 hours after the reactionary Donald Trump was elected as US president. Below is the statement written by SA explaining the reasons behind Trump’s victory and what it represents.
Socialist Alternative, the CWI and WASP are calling for global protests to meet Trump’s inauguration on 20 and 21 January 2017.
People in the US and around the world awoke on 9 November to one of the most shocking political upsets in living memory with the election of Donald Trump as president. It was the culmination of an election cycle when ordinary Americans rose up against the political establishment and against the destructive effects of globalization and neo-liberalism. This was expressed both on the left, with the campaign of Bernie Sanders which galvanized millions for a “political revolution against the billionaire class,” and, in a distorted way, on the right with Trump’s campaign.
But Trump did not just run as the alleged defender of the “forgotten men and women” in working class communities. He also ran the most overtly bigoted and chauvinist campaign of a major party candidate in modern times. He created a space for white nationalists and open white supremacists to come out of their holes and try to reach disaffected white workers and youth. This is a very dangerous development.
However, we completely reject the notion – relentlessly pushed by liberal commentators, trying to deflect from the staggering failure of the Democratic Party – that the outcome demonstrates that the bulk of the white working class shares Trump’s racism and xenophobia. Clinton actually won the popular vote by a narrow margin. Trump only got 47.5% overall, with tens of millions of the poorest and most downtrodden Americans not voting.
Trump’s vote was first and foremost a vote against Clinton and the establishment; it was a vote for a “change agent” against a consummate representative of the corporate status quo. Many responded to his attacks on the “rigged system” and corporations who move jobs overseas. What was tragically missing was a clear choice on the left that could offer an alternative to the seduction of right populism.
Socialist Alternative stands with the millions of women who are disgusted by the election of an open misogynist and correctly see it as a step backward; with Latinos who fear that mass deportations of undocumented workers are about to ramp up to unprecedented levels; with Muslims and African Americans who fear that Trump’s hate speech will incite more violence and the growth of a far right force.
We immediately called protests in cities around the country to make it clear that working people and the oppressed must stand together and prepare to resist the attacks of the right. In the past 24 hours we have been inundated with requests for more information about our organization. We must start today to build a genuine political alternative for the 99% against both corporate dominated parties and the right so that in 2020 we will not go through this disaster again.
A Shock to the Ruling Class
It needs to be underlined that the outcome of this election was not just a shock to tens of millions of progressive workers, women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ people but also – for quite different reasons – to the ruling elite of the United States.
The majority of the ruling class see Trump as temperamentally “unfit to govern.” It is certainly true that Trump’s bully boy approach of publicly humiliating opponents and reacting to every perceived slight with nasty twitter posts has more in common with “strongmen” dictators in “failed states.” Even George Bush was not as proudly ignorant of international affairs as Trump. The ruling class see a Trump presidency as potentially deeply damaging to the interests of US imperialism at a time when its global power is waning, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, challenged by Russia and especially by an increasingly assertive Chinese imperialism.
They strongly object to Trump’s vociferous rejection of free trade deals and the dominant capitalist economic doctrines of the past forty years. But the truth is that globalization is stalled. Its engine of trade has gone into partial reverse. The Trump vote has some parallels with the Brexit vote in Britain to leave the European Union earlier this year which also reflected a massive rejection of globalization and neo-liberalism by the British working class.
The ruling class also fear that Trump’s crude racism, xenophobia, and misogyny will provoke social upheaval in the US. In this they will certainly be proved right.
At a deeper level, perhaps the most shocking aspect of this outcome for the ruling elite – including the corporate executives and the political establishment and corporate media outlets who serve them – is that the way they have dominated politics in this country through the two party system is broken. In election cycle after election cycle, the primaries have been used to weed out candidates who are not acceptable to corporate interests. Then the electorate would be left with the choice of two “vetted” nominees. The corporate elite might strongly prefer one or the other but they could live with either. Ordinary people were then left with the choice of picking a “lesser evil” or voting for a third party candidate with no chance of winning.
All that changed in 2016. First Bernie Sanders raised $220 million dollars without taking a dime from corporate America and came very close to defeating Hillary in the rigged Democratic primary. Trump was also largely shunned by the Republican “donor class” and the last two Republican presidents and the most recent Republican nominee were very public in rejecting him.
The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost
It is still staggering that the outcome of the primaries left people with a choice between the two most unpopular major party candidates of the modern era. Exit polling showed 61% of voters had an unfavourable view of Trump and 54% said the same about Clinton.
In the primaries, the Democratic National Committee did everything it could to stack the deck for the establishment’s chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton, against Sanders whom polls showed consistently doing much better against Trump. This speaks directly to the fact that a significant element of Trump’s eventual electorate was open to a genuine working class argument opposing the power of Wall Street and their free trade agenda while calling for a $15 minimum wage, free college, single payer healthcare and massive investment in green infrastructure. But the truth is that the Democratic leadership would rather lose than to be tied to a program that really spoke to the interests of working people and the poor.
Disgracefully most union leaders threw their support and millions of dollars behind Clinton in the primaries while an important section of trade unionists and several national unions backed Sanders. In this way, the labour leadership helped to prop up Wall Street’s candidate against a pro-working class challenge.
Clinton limped into the general election as a deeply damaged corporate candidate. What received the most attention in the media was the State Department email scandal. But the continuing Wikileaks revelations also confirmed in detail and underlined the picture that Sanders had painted in the primary: that Clinton was a servant of Wall Street who said one thing in private speeches to bankers who handed her millions and another in public.
Liberal apologists will seek to blame the white working class, Bernie supporters or even Jill Stein’s voters for the outcome. But as we have repeatedly pointed out the Democratic Party long ago abandoned even the pretense of defending working class interests. For decades they implemented or supported one neo-liberal measure after another: from “ending welfare as we know it,” expanding mass incarceration, pushing through NAFTA and repealing Glass Steagall under Bill Clinton to bailing out the banks while millions lost their homes under Obama.
After the 2008 and 2009 economic crash, the left gave Obama a pass. The Democrats controlled Congress and did little to help the working class in the worst crisis since the 1930s. This opened the door to the Tea Party to mobilize opposition to the bailout of Wall Street and anger at the politicians.
Under pressure from the 45% who supported Sanders in the primary, the Democrats adopted the most left platform at their convention in 40 years. But Clinton ran her campaign solidly focused on the message that Trump was an existential danger to the Republic and that “America was already great.” Hillary’s donors did not want her stressing issues like the minimum wage or ending college debt for fear of raising expectations among fired up working people. It could be argued that Hillary had no credibility as a progressive so what could she do? Well what she did was make Tim Kaine who supported TPP and bank deregulation her vice presidential candidate instead of someone like Elizabeth Warren. She refused to promise not to appoint a bunch of Goldman Sachs personnel to her administration. All of this was completely uninspiring to the millions of people hungry for real change.
It is therefore no surprise that Clinton was unable to enthuse greater voter turnout. Neither Trump nor Clinton got 50% of the vote. And while Clinton got a very slightly larger share of the popular vote than Trump, she got six million fewer votes than Obama in 2012 and fully ten million fewer than Obama in 2008. Meanwhile, Trump’s vote was actually a million votes lower than Romney’s!
As Jacobin pointed out: “Clinton won only 65 percent of Latino voters, compared to Obama’s 71 percent four years ago. She performed this poorly against a candidate who ran on a program of building a wall along America’s southern border, a candidate who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. Clinton won 34 percent of white women without college degrees. And she won just 54 percent of women overall, compared to Obama’s 55 percent in 2012. Clinton, of course, was running against a candidate who has gloated on film about grabbing women ‘by the pussy.’” Clinton also did not excite younger black voters, many of whom sat the election out. And she lost in white working class communities where Barack Obama won handily in both previous elections.
The Democratic establishment played a dangerous game in this election – and they lost. And it will be working people, communities of color, and women who bear the brunt of their failure.
Sanders Should Have Been on the Ballot
In the past few years we have seen a profound political polarization in the US with the growth of support among young people for socialism and Black Lives Matter while there is a growth of open xenophobia and racism among a minority of the population. But the overall trend in American society has been to the left, expressed in support for marriage equality, a higher minimum wage and taxing the rich. This election does not change that underlying reality but it clearly puts the right in the driver seat with control of the presidency, both houses of Congress and the bulk of state legislatures.
A large section of the white working class and middle class did indeed use this election to underline their utter rejection of the Democratic Party and also the establishment of the Republicans. In a distorted way, tens of millions were looking for a way to oppose the corporate elite. We cannot close our eyes to the growth in support among a minority for far right ideas but it is revealing, for example, that exit polls showed that 70% said undocumented immigrants “should be offered legal status” against 25% who said they should be deported.
This is why it is absolutely tragic that Bernie Sanders was not on the ballot. We urged him to run as an independent as early as September 2014 when he first raised the idea of a presidential campaign. When he decided to run within the Democratic Party primary we disagreed with accepting this framework but continued to engage with his supporters in a discussion about how to achieve his program and the need for a new party.
Our warnings about the consequences of supporting Hillary have been tragically borne out. If Sanders had continued to run all the way to November, as we and many others urged, his presence would have radically changed the character of the race. He would have almost certainly forced his way into the presidential debates and we would right now be discussing the immediate question of forming a new party of the 99% based on the many millions of votes he would have received. This is a massive opportunity missed.
Socialist Alternative supported Jill Stein of the Green Party who received just over one million votes because she also put forward a platform that substantively spoke to the interests of working people. Stein’s campaign had many limitations but, despite them, her vote in a small way indicates the massive potential that exists for the development of a mass left alternative.
A Presidency of Chaos and Struggle
The election of Donald Trump is a disaster which will have many negative consequences. But it is also a phase in the ongoing process of political and social upheaval in the US. Capitalism and its institutions are discredited as perhaps never before, a process that continued right through the end of the general election with the FBI interjecting itself into the political process and Trump relentless talking about the “rigged” political system.
There will inevitably be widespread despair in sections of the left and a feeling that all attempts to move society forward are useless. It is absolutely essential to push back against this mood. Real change as Bernie Sanders correctly pointed out comes from the bottom up, from mass movements in the workplaces and the streets.
Trump’s victory represents the “whip of counter-revolution.” There will be chaos and provocations which will impel millions into defensive action. This is why those who have been radicalized in the past period must redouble their efforts to build a real mass movement for change, independent of corporate control. The social movements of recent years and especially BLM show the potential.
But it also essential to see that Trump will inevitably disappoint his supporters. “Building a wall” will not create millions of good jobs to replace those lost to automation and trade deals. And though he talks about investing in 21st century infrastructure, he is also committed to even further massive tax breaks for billionaires like himself. A mass movement against Trump will need to appeal directly to the white working class and explain how we can create a future where all young people can have a decent future rather than trying to recreate the “American dream” by deepening racial division. Such a future can only be achieved with socialist policies.
Victimisation of #OutsourcingMustFall activists
State tries to crush worker-student unity in struggle for free education
Two leading activists of the #OutsourcingMustFall movement, both members of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), are facing legal harassment for their role in supporting the struggle for free education.
Austin Mofya, also an organiser for the Tshwane branch of the GIWUSA union, is due to appear in Atteridgville magistrates court on Friday on trumped-up charges of “public violence”. These are old charges relating to Mofya’s role in supporting a strike of outsourced workers at the Tshwane University of Technology at the start of the year. The charges were dropped at the time, less than 24 hours after they were laid.
Mametlwe Sebei has been ordered to present himself to the Sunnyside police station this afternoon. Sebei was the co-convenor of the student march to Union Buildings that took place on 20 October. The police declared the march illegal in advance but allowed it to proceed when students, workers and other supporters of free education assembled in numbers. The march was overwhelmingly disciplined, including the organisation of marshals to ensure discipline.
It is not a coincidence that the state has resurrected the charges against Mofya in the midst of the student protests for free education or decided to try and make an example of Sebei. Austin and Sebei, alongside #OMF, Tshwane GIWUSA branch and WASP have played an important role in mobilising workers and working class communities in solidarity with the struggle for free education. This included uniting the strike of Sheraton Hotel workers for decent wages with the student march to Union Buildings. This is why they are now being targeted.
But “an injury to one is an injury to all”. The thousands of students who took part in the march to Union Buildings, the thousands of Tshwane workers who have marched under the banner of #OutsourcingMustFall and the Sheraton Hotel workers will be mobilised to defend these activists. It is an attack on the whole movement.
Organise a national day of action
Convene a national student assembly
WASP & Socialist Youth Movement statement
The struggle for free education is reaching a crossroads. After three weeks of successful campus shutdowns, student activists see the goal of free education as being in reach. But for the broad mass of students, including the overwhelming majority who support the idea of fee education, it seems as far away as ever in the face on police repression, government intransigence and the media onslaught against the ‘affordability’ of free education. Frustrations are rising amongst student activists as they search for the correct tactics to take the movement forward. At this crucial juncture, it is vital that the path chosen leads in the direction of ever greater unity, organisation and coordination.
The government, the police and all those opposed to free education want to push the movement into repeating the mistakes that were made last year. We condemn police repression and brutality, the militarisation of the campuses and use of private security thugs, limits on the right to protest and the other measures that are calculated by the enemies of free education to provoke a minority of students into resorting to violence and burning property out of sheer frustration. But such actions not only do nothing to take the movement forward, they drag it backwards. This is exactly what the establishment wants in order to divide students and delegitimise the protests as well as the call for free education itself. Agents provocateurs are almost certainly operating in the movement to achieve that end. Only organisation and discipline can defeat them.
There is overwhelming support for free education across society. This needs to be harnessed in a mass Free Education Movement that unites students with the organised working class, communities and school students. Building such a movement will demand planning, careful preparation and therefore discipline.
Activists in Tshwane initiated a meeting on 1 October between student activists and representatives of workers and communities. Together they founded the ‘Occupy Tshwane’ movement, committed to the struggle for free education and uniting that demand with the struggles of workers and communities for a R10,000 minimum wage, the end of outsourcing and labour broking, decent jobs for all and service delivery. We call on students everywhere to reach out to workers and communities and organise together.
- For a national day of action, including a march to Union Buildings, Parliament and other seats of government
- Organise a national student assembly with delegates from all campuses and all student movements that support free education, including campus workers and school students, to launch a mass Free Education Movement with an elected and accountable national leadership capable of giving strategic direction to the movement
- Build links with workers, communities and school students through creation of mass Occupy movements in every area
Socialist mass workers party needed
Weizmann Hamilton Executive Committee
This article appears in the new issue of Izwi Labasebenzi.
The 3 August municipal elections and the student protests have confirmed our perspective following the Marikana massacre: “The battle lines [have been] drawn for colossal struggles to come … the political reverberations will continue to rock the country like the aftershocks of an earthquake, and will alter the political landscape forever.” (Izwi Labasebenzi 21/09/12)
3 August – a decisive turning point
The local government elections have changed the political landscape almost beyond recognition. 3 August 2016 represents a decisive political turning point for post-apartheid SA. Despite remaining overwhelmingly dominant, the 8% decline in its vote, and the loss of Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg hit the ANC like a defeat.
Working class voters left the ANC only 4% above the majority water-mark. The way has now been cleared, in only three years time, for the ANC to be unable to form a government on its own. Some form of the post local government elections coalitions would then most likely be repeated at a national level, ushering in a completely new political landscape.
The birth first in 2008, of the Congress of the People (Cope), and the formation, five years later, of the Economic Freedom Fighters represented different, successive stages in the confirmation of Izwi la Basebenzi’s prognosis following Mbeki’s ousting – that down this road lies the eventual break-up of the ANC. Cosatu’s 2014 expulsion of the 300,000 strong Numsa, struck a crippling blow against the ANC’s electoral mobilising capacity draining away the support of hundreds of thousands of workers and their families.
The divisions the ANC went into the 2016 local government elections with have now deepened to the point where a third major split cannot be ruled out should it fall below 50% in 2019. The current outbreak of hostilities has seen the Finance Minister threatened with arrest, Zuma contradicting Ramaphosa by denying the government was at war with itself, SACP ministers defiant about their possible dismissal from cabinet, the Communications Minister defying ANC NEC decisions in the courts etc.
ANC at war with itself
Nothing reveals the contemptible character of the Zuma administration more than the extraordinary power the Guptas have to appoint cabinet ministers – the complaints about which sparked the current factional conflict — and the SABC board’s brazen defiance of the courts on Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s irregular appointment to senior positions. SA has become the banana republic the ANC elite – the stout defenders of “constitutional democracy” and the “rule of law” – always prided themselves the country would never degenerate into under them.
In less than a decade since the first serious cleavages in the post-apartheid ANC opened with Mbeki’s recall, factional conflict has ceased to shock – it is now its political way of life. What is new is only the significant recasting of the factional line-ups in which former allies are now avowed enemies.
Cope died an early death, Zuma’s “coalition of the wounded” has broken up and the Tripartite Alliance exists in name only. The Zuma faction is openly hostile to the SACP. Calls from within the SACP to divorce the ANC will grow louder before 2019.
The emasculated Cosatu’s own implosion has not yet fully played itself out. After Numsa’s expulsion and the Food and Allied Workers Union’s departure, a damaging conflict over the presidential succession battle looms. When Cosatu’s September Central Executive Committee failed to back Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma, the NUM broke ranks announcing its support for the ‘butcher of Marikana’ – a promise to continue as a politically irrelevant baas boy union.
Reduced to a cowardly political apologist for Zuma’s faction, and with little credibility left amongst workers, the giant that was Cosatu founded in 1985 will be further diminished by these new strains.
Zuma faction’s domination potentially fatal for ANC
Making full use of his authority and experience as ANC Head of Intelligence in exile, Zuma has systematically reengineered control of key organs of state – the police, intelligence and National Prosecuting Authority – installing his cronies to shield him from imprisonment. At the same time he has captured a number of state-owned enterprises and created an extensive patronage network that reaches into every corner of government.
The Zuma faction’s rule over the ANC, until recently almost completely free of the intellectual pretensions that marked Mbeki’s, has lately dressed itself up in the EFF’s ideological language, noisily denouncing “white monopoly capital.” The Black Business Council, nothing more than hyenas feeding at the state trough, held its September imbizo under the theme “economic freedom in our lifetime – aluta continua”.
After Mbeki’s ousting we pointed out that the Zuma and Mbeki factions were not involved in a clash of competing ideologies. In the final analysis, they are ideological peas-in-a-pod – you cannot tell them apart. (Izwi Labasebenzi 1/10/2008). In the latest factional conflict, nothing has changed.
Zuma’s rule over the ANC, over whose structures he has until now had a vice-like grip which has been systematically tightened in the equivalent of a slow-motion organisational coup, has Bonapartist characteristics both internally to the ANC and in society. As its authority diminishes, it increasingly reacts to protests with state force. Utilising to the full the powers the very constitution his feeble opposition is rallying around, he ignores the very ANC NEC he dominates, the cabinet he has appointed and has reduced parliament to a stage on which he can laugh at the nation, as he runs the country with and for the Guptas.
Yet Zuma’s power has begun to loosen as events outside the ANC reverberate inside it. The North West, Mpumalanga and KZN have turned into factional battle grounds. In KZN nearly 50% of the branches are challenging the ANC’s provincial congress results in court.
The judiciary, acting as a check on Zuma’s authoritarian instincts, has also inflicted blows on him and his faction. Zuma’s strategy to subvert state institutions to avoid corruption charges has therefore not met with the same success. Apart from the Nkandla humiliation, his cronies – Mineral Resources Minister Zwane, his NPA fixers Jiba and Mrewbi and his SARS crony, Monyane – have all suffered serious reverses.
Yet so firm is Zuma’s grip on ANC structures and so compromised the opposition – driven by the same objectives to protect their access to state resources for self-enrichment – that they are unlikely to stop Zuma’s plan to ensure he is succeeded by his ex-wife, Nkosazana Zuma as president. Ramaphosa’s support in the ANC is limited to an isolated Gauteng and sections of a politically crippled Cosatu.
Amnesty for Zuma?
The deeply hostile Polokwane factions found a way to reconcile, renewing their marriage vows in a shared belief that the ANC’s unity took precedence over everything. This enabled the ANC to present at least a semblance of unity in 2009 and 2012. United with the sincerity of the best of enemies, the ANC’s victories have been accompanied by diminishing electoral support. It therefore prepares for 2019 impaled on the horns of a serious dilemma.
A third split would see the ANC entering 2019 as rival blocs forced into previously unthinkable electoral alliances, leaving it perched on the edge of the sinkhole of oblivion. On the other hand, if it reconciles, it will have to do so on terms acceptable to the dominant Zuma faction. This will mean contesting the elections with Zuma effectively assured of an amnesty, virtually ensuring defeat.
To escape this dilemma the option of rigging the elections as insurance for the “right” outcome will undoubtedly be discussed in the ‘smoke filled rooms’ of Luthuli House. The logic of Gwede Mantashe and Jesse Duarte’s unprecedented attacks on the IEC as the ANC’s enemy after the municipal elections are not many steps away from demanding the election outcome they prefer. The ANC presidency was prepared to rubber stamp Zimbabwe’s fraudulent elections and to sit on its own judicial report confirming it. Why would they not do it here? The only thing holding them back is the combativity of the working class and youth reflected in the high levels of protests in the workplace, the communities and on the campuses. Electoral fraud against this background could possibly set-off a ‘South African spring’ threatening the end of the ANC itself.
Unity post Polokwane proved to be an investment with rapidly diminishing electoral returns that may now turn negative. Zuma thus has become an inoperable brain tumour for the ANC. Any attempt to perform surgery through a recall would be potentially fatal. If, however, Zuma is not removed the ANC is threatened with electoral defeat in any case. Therefore a deal between both factions such as the one proposed by UDM leader, Bantu Holomisa, to give Zuma immunity in exchange for him stepping down as head of state at the ANC conference in 2017, seems the only way to avoid an all-out factional war that would destroy the ANC. The ANC‘s convulsions are the symptoms of a party now in the throes of a death agony.
Workers party needed
As possible alternatives, the splits that have so far occurred in the ANC – Cope to its right, and the EFF to its left – have both proven to be a mirage for the masses. In the cold light of day the EFF’s parliamentary theatrics and its Nkandla victory were unable to lend credibility to its claim to be a “government-in-waiting” ready to oust the ANC in 2019. The 3 August message is abundantly clear: a resounding rejection of the ANC, a death certificate for Cope and the EFF stamped as “not to be trusted as an alternative”.
Malema’s offer to merge with the ANC should it fall below 50% in 2019, marks the completion of the EFF’s retreat to the right. The local government engagement with the DA is clearly preparation for marriage with its ideological twin, the ANC. Malema claims the merger would entail the burial of the ANC. In fact, just as the EFF helped to impose DA on electorates that did not give them outright majorities in the metros they now control, it now wants to foist the ANC on an electorate that would have rejected it. Having discarded nationalisation of the economy’s commanding heights, and dropped socialism from its local government manifesto, what is abundantly clear is that this is a proposal for a pro-capitalist bloc. This places the EFF on the opposite side of the barricades to the proletariat in the class struggle.
The mole of revolution has been burrowing away beneath the surface over a considerable period of time. Numsa has unfortunately spurned the historical opportunities of both the 2014 and 2016 elections. The United Front and the Movement for Socialism have both been aborted. The promised revolutionary socialist workers party is being prepared deep inside the bowels of Numsa’s internal structures, insulated from the daily struggles of the working class – an SACP Mark II.
With their main instrument imploding, the strategists of capital have been preparing with far greater urgency to protect their class interests in a post-ANC scenario. After Agang’s spectacular failure and with the DA’s limitations exposed, they have been courting the EFF in admiring tones over its “political maturity”.
The late Allister Spark suggested, “whoever emerges as our post-Zuma president should consider declaring a state of economic emergency and forming a government of national unity… invite any opposition members of the National Assembly, as well as two from civil society, to join his Cabinet — plus two deputy ministers from outside the assembly.” (Business Day 16/03/16)
The working class must match the urgency of the capitalist class by creating a mass workers party on a socialist programme. In the three main theatres of the class struggle – in communities, amongst students and in the workplace – WASP’s call for unity corresponds to working class experience and the call for a countrywide socialist civic is finding support. The Socialist Youth Movement’s call for a nationwide Free Education Movement is beginning to bring students together across organisational affiliations.
The Committee for a New Trade Union Federation affiliates must note #OutsourcingMustFall’s successes amongst the 76% unorganised, marginalised sectors it has itself has drawn attention to and actively orient towards them.
WASP fully supports the need, given the Tripartite Alliance experience, to defend the new federation’s independence without being apolitical. The best insurance for class and political independence is for the new federation to play an active role in building a mass workers party on a socialist programme.
WASP & Socialist Youth Movement statement
The second round in the struggle for free education is underway. Campuses across the country were shut-down on Tuesday as protests began against the ANC government’s announcement that universities would be allowed to determine fee increase for the next academic year. At the end of 2015 the #FeesMustFall movement inflicted a heavy defeat on the government, forcing them not only to impose a freeze on university fees in 2016, but to investigate the student demand for free education.
The details of the announcement for 2017 reveal the weakness and the uncertainty of the government; the quick response of students in launching a new wave of protests demonstrates their potential strength. But that strength must be harnessed in a disciplined and coordinated mass movement. If this happens it is possible to defeat the government again.
Divide and rule
The ANC government has clearly decided in advance that they will not agree to free education. The Fees Commission, mandated to investigate the “feasibility” of free education, is no more than window-dressing aimed at sowing confusion by marshalling “evidence” to prove that free education is in fact not feasible. Blade, the general secretary of a party that that calls itself ‘communist’, has gone so far as to state on television that students must accept that we live in a capitalist society. If the government were serious they would impose a special tax on the R1.5 trillion lying idle in the accounts of big business for lack of profitable investment opportunities. Or they could take serious action against the vast illicit financial outflows where big business hides their profits or demand that ABSA should pay the R3.5bn they set aside to pay for their looting during the dying days of apartheid. They certainly would not be preparing to spend R1 trillion on nuclear power stations!
Determined to avoid a second defeat the ANC government’s strategy has been to consciously divide and disorient the movement. The entire period since their October 2015 retreat has been devoted to resuscitating the PYA structures, lining-up the Cosatu trade union federation behind the government and posturing in favour of the poor and the “missing middle” in an entirely hypocritical attempt to portray itself as pro-working class.
Having disregarded “university autonomy” last year and imposed a zero per cent increase, Blade Nzimande, Minister for Higher Education, has suddenly rediscovered that university managements have the power on fee increases as has always been the case. The government is trying to put the responsibility on the Vice Chancellors in the hope of making them the focus of student protests. This is calculated to deflect attention from the government, provide ammunition to its student formations in the Progressive Youth Alliance to defend the government, keep struggles isolated and cut across a national mass movement developing. But overwhelmingly students have seen through this. In calling for an 8% cap on any increase, Blade has in reality given the universities, which had decided on increases ranging from 6% to 8%, the green light for the maximum.
In a further act of cynicism, Blade has said government will cover fee increases of up to 8% for all students receiving NSFAS support and all students who come from families whose household income is less than R600 000 per year. This is estimated to mean that 70-80% of undergraduates will not pay out of their own pocket for any fee increases next year. To fund fee increases of up to 8% for these students the government will find R2.5 billion.
This pre-emptive concession tells us that the government knows it cannot take on all students and win. They are therefore trying to make it more difficult for student activists to mobilise the masses of ordinary students and are consciously trying to drive a wedge between them. The government has learned lessons over the past year. In November last year in the face of a movement that mobilised all students they were forced back; in January and February they were able to weather protests because they were isolated, involved small numbers, and employed wrong tactics – such as the burning of buildings – that alienated most students.
So far the government’s divide and rule tactics have not stopped protests from developing. But every effort must be made to reach out to the vast majority of students and involve them in a mass movement for free education. Student activists must draw lessons from the past year too.
The majority of students are protesting peacefully. Only a tiny minority have resorted to the destruction of university buildings and property. The frustrations that lead to violence are understandable. Some students are reacting to the lack of consultation in the Fees Commission and acting in desperation to get their voices heard. But the superiority of peaceful mass protest was decisively settled by the experience of the past year. Nowhere did the burning of buildings mobilise students or win them over to support a mass campaign. It had the opposite effect of sowing the basis for divisions and played into the hands of the enemies of the struggle by distracting attention from the real issues.
That is why the promise from an activist at UKZN of “mass destruction” was extremely unhelpful. But the media plays a reactionary role in sensationalising the minority of protests that involved some violence, considering them more “newsworthy” than the majority that do not. The many statements by different student organisations giving comprehensive explanations for the reasons behind the protests are often not covered in the media or are inaccurately reported. There is no mention of the bussing in to campuses of special squads of private security which engage in gratuitous apartheid-style violence to police and suppress protests. These forces must be withdrawn immediately.
Another important development in favour of students is the struggle that has been waged by outsourced campus workers since the government’s 2015 defeat. Cleaners, security guards, catering, retail and gardening workers at many campuses across the country have organised and taken part in strike action, especially under the #OutsourcingMustFall banner in which we have played a leading role. Many concessions have been won with many institutions agreeing to insourcing linked to substantial pay rises. This movement was given courage by #FeesMustFall and the workers overwhelmingly recognise that their struggles and the struggles of students are one and the same.
Workers, remembering that it was the students who had placed the demand for insourcing on their agenda in 2015, feel duty bound to act in solidarity with them this time. Correctly, many students have welcomed this and appealed for more support. But as in all aspects of the struggle tactics must be thought about carefully. Building on 2015, when workers issues around outsourcing, pay and conditions were incidental to the main demands, must be raised as a central demand this time alongside those of the students themselves. Further, the 2015 student movement encouraged worker organisation and unity. On this foundation, workers/student unity must be consolidated to ensure worker participation is not unorganised leaving workers open to victimisation, dismissal and the removal of the most politically conscious workers from campus, setting back workers’ and student struggles alike.
Workers are spontaneously meeting to discuss how they can support the student struggle this time. On many campuses workers are already organised in committees and other forums. Workers and students should attend each others’ mass meetings as delegates, reporting back to their respective structures for discussion and decisions on organised and united support. #OutsourcingMustFall is actively mobilising on this basis to ensure that here is lasting organised worker/student unity.
Drawing political conclusions
The eruption of protests despite the government’s bribery also shows the widespread political conclusions that are being drawn. For many student activists the demand for free education is not simply about their own ability to continue in education. It is a condemnation of corruption and inequality in society. Many have drawn anti-capitalist conclusions. Many more will.
In early 2015 the Socialist Youth Movement initiated the #Occupy movement in Tshwane which targeted the Reserve Bank and raised the demand for free education. Even before Blade’s announcement, the #Occupy movement was reviving. Following this example, a mass meeting of students at Wits University has proposed a march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Students are increasingly clear that the vast wealth of society is in the hands of the capitalist elite. This is the answer to the question so many ask – where will the money for free education come from?
We have always argued that the struggle for free education must be linked to the struggle for socialism – to the struggle for the nationalisation under democratic control of the banks, the mines, the commercial farms, big factories and big businesses. More and more student activists will be drawing this conclusion too.
New national movement needed
In 2015, the ANC-aligned PYA structures, especially SASCO, were able to manoeuvre into the ‘leadership’ of the movement at a national level and demobilise students after the 0% concession was won, saving the ANC government. Back then they were forced from below to posture on the question of affordable education, if not free education. Now the pretence has been dropped. We condemn the statement of the national leadership of SASCO supporting the government’s position on fees. To the extent that PYA has identified with the proposals such as the march on the JSE, they are exploiting anti-capitalist sentiment in the service of the pro-capitalist ANC government. We urge the SASCO rank-and-file to reject the leadership’s betrayal and to join forces with other students to create a united movement around a common set of genuine anti-capitalist and socialist demands.
On many campuses SASCO has decisively crossed over to the side of the counter-revolution. They are organising violent counter-mobilisations against student protesters. This repeats the use of SASCO to try and violently break the strike of TUT campus workers against outsourcing early in the year. Any genuine students in the rank-and-file of SASCO must reject being used as fascist gangs to break the struggles of students and workers.
A formal split in SASCO is possible as its structures are forced to choose which side of the barricades they will stand on. The struggle for free education must encourage such a split and help to clear a major obstacle in the emergence of a new national student movement.
And this remains the key task for a successful mass movement for free education. Many important steps are being taken in this direction, for example regional meetings planned for this coming Saturday. We stand in full solidarity with students and the struggle for free education. The most important task faced by the students is the creation of a national free education movement armed with a socialist programme.
by Weizmann Hamilton
3 August 2016, will go down at an electoral level, as a turning point in the ANC’s post apartheid history – a point at which the arrow of its political fortunes is now firmly pointing south. As events since the elections have demonstrated, the aura of the ANC as the all-conquering party of liberation destined to rule in Zuma’s infamous words “until Jesus comes” has been shattered. Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement when speaking out for the first time over the threatened arrest of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan by the Zuma faction-controlled Hawks, that the ANC is at war with itself, is if anything, an understatement.
That Zuma can even contemplate Gordhan’s arrest, deploying the Crimes Against the State (CATS) unit, whose mandate is to defend the country against sedition, treason and coups, is a measure of the extent of his intoxication with the powers he has usurped Bonapartist-style within the ANC and his total incomprehension of the destructive consequence of his actions on it. The use of key state institutions now led by his cronies, including the apartheid-era police-trained Hawks head, Berning Ntlemeza, using methods of intimidation and harassment that are an almost exact replica of those of the apartheid regime, shows how much the Zuma faction has parted company with political reality. There is now open speculation of a split within the ANC as a hitherto timid opposition begins to find its voice.
Izwi La Basebenzi pointed out during the factional war in the run-up to the 2007 ANC conference in Polokwane, and after, that however much the conflict centred on the personalities of Mbeki and Zuma, in reality the ANC’s internal conflict was an indirect expression of the polarisation between the classes that resulted from the ANC’s neo-liberal capitalist economic policies. We warned then that this process would continue under Zuma — who had made it abundantly clear that there would be no change in economic policy under his administration — and that this would sow the seeds for even sharper factional conflict in the future.
Whilst the definitive majority with which the Zuma faction emerged out of Polokwane was consolidated at Mangaung, where he was re-elected with an increased majority, the subterranean processes that were bringing the class forces into even sharper collision continued to play themselves out in significantly more unfavourable economic conditions.
The scale of the Zuma faction’s victory and the ideological tone of the pre-Polokwane propaganda machine gave rise to the illusion of an ANC that would return to its roots as a party with a “working class bias” that would, in the second decade of liberation, shift its focus from the rich to the poor. Illusory as it was, it enabled the ANC to retain a semblance of ideological consensus, historical purpose and organisational cohesion both inside the party and to the working class electorate.
Nearly a decade later, our perspectives have been borne out. The Polokwane illusions have now evaporated. What marks out the factional war this time however – Zuma’s incoherent “9/12” babble when he announced the sacking of former Finance Minister Nene aside — is the complete abandonment of any ideological pretences. The naked struggle for power is unashamedly over control of state resources for self-enrichment. As the unprecedented levels of corruption now impact on the real economy, it has come to occupy political centre stage in the ANC’s relationship with the electorate. The overpowering stench of moral decay engulfing the ANC leaves the masses turning away from it in disgust.
Despite the overwhelming dominance of the corruption question, the ANC factions are not ideologically at odds with each other. The corruption furore may have pitted Zuma against Gordhan over control of the Treasury, but both are equally committed to the same neo-liberal economic policies. Both the pseudo-populists and the constitutional democrats have been united in their determination to tighten the grip of neo-liberalism around the throats of the working class. Gordhan may even enjoy some public sympathy over his stance on corruption. But as a staunch defender of the government’s anti-working class neo-liberal capitalist policies, he stands guard over Treasury not just against the Zuma faction’s recklessness and corruption, but in defence of the constitutionally entrenched economic dictatorship of the “markets” and against the democratic claims of the masses over the financial resources Treasury controls for jobs, decent housing, free education and health, the eradication of poverty, inequality and mass unemployment.
From the standpoint of the working class, the Gordhan portrayed by the liberal press and the chattering classes as a heroic champion of fiscal responsibility trying to prevent Zuma from turning the country into a into a kleptocracy, is as politically responsible as Zuma for the unmitigated disaster that the ANC government’s economic policies have been for the working class. These policies have ensured that the draining away of electoral support, under way for more than a decade, has now reached a level that poses the question of the ANC’s possible defeat in the 2019 general election.
“The masses have spoken” all political parties are saying. But what did they say? The consensus amongst analysts is limited to a recognition of the undeniable reality that these elections represent a resounding rejection of the ANC. Beyond this, opinion on the performance of both the DA and the EFF differ widely and sometimes wildly.
It ranges from the ludicrous suggestion, even from sections of the Left, that the masses have turned to the right and embraced the DA which was now poised to return SA to apartheid, to the idea that the way is now cleared for a president Maimane to accede to power in 2019. On the other hand, the EFF is believed to have performed respectably given its limited financial resources even if its more extravagant ambitions of trebling its votes and taking control of a number of municipalities have not been realised.
But these analyses are rather generous to both the DA and the EFF. In the DA’s case this generosity derives from the belief that the DA, under its first black leader, Maimane, is on track towards shedding its historical heritage as a party of white privilege and undergoing a successful transformation into a party of the rainbow at the end of which lies the pot of gold of electoral victory. But as we have pointed out in a previous statement this claim is not supported by the facts. The DA has not been able to break through the electoral ceiling it reached in 2014.
The sympathetic treatment of the EFF’s results is the fruit of its consistent ideological shift to the right. What bourgeois commentators refer to as its greater “maturity” is an accolade it has earned because, interspersed in with its radical rhetoric, is a language that is much more social democratic than socialist. Dali Mpofu, EFF national chairperson, for example, has spoken admiringly of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn and the US’s Bernie Sanders as a vision for SA to follow. Serious socialists of course supported Bernie Sanders (until his betrayal in supporting war monger and arch neo-liberal Hilary Clinton) against the imperialist US establishment as well as Corbyn against the equally war-mongering neo-liberal Blairite right-wing in the Labour Party. But serious socialists also had to be clear that the programme of both Sanders and Corbyn, despite proclaiming themselves as socialists, do not go beyond a radical reform of capitalism, whilst failing to recognise that implementing their programmes would bring them into open collision with the capitalist establishment and pose the question of the overthrow of capitalism.
The logic of the EFF’s position, the notion that a better capitalism is possible, is what has earned the EFF its new respectability, reflected in the media in the estimation of the serious strategists of capitalism. The EFF increasingly appears to have been engaged in a mere flirtation with socialism.
The ANC’s deepest crisis since 2007 presented both parties with unprecedented opportunities which they failed to exploit. Neither party was able to attract to its banner a sizeable section of the 3.3m votes the ANC lost. The verdict delivered by these elections is that neither the DA on the right nor the EFF on the left had succeeded in convincing the masses that they were a serious alternative. This is a far greater indictment of the EFF than it is for the DA. The latter, a party whose historical component parts all have their origins in white minority rule, has always been an unapologetic party of neo-liberal capitalism.
The DA can crow until the cows come home over the fact that they now run four of the country’s metros. But with the exception of Cape Town where, for historical reasons, the peculiar demographics of the province conspired with the ANC’s grotesque incompetence and corruption to enable it to return to office with an increased majority, it failed to secure an outright majority in any other metro. What the electorate has taken away from the ANC they have not given to the DA.
Mistaken EFF tactics
The conditions for the birth of the EFF, in contrast, were prepared by the decisive changes in working class consciousness wrought in the furnace of Marikana and expressed in the burning desire for a mass working class alternative with a programme pointing the way out of the exploitation and oppression of capitalism.
The main message of these elections is that the masses’ yearning for a mass working class alternative with a programme that breaks unambiguously with the policies of the ANC, has yet to be fulfilled. The EFF’s 1 million + votes in 2014 was one expression of that desire and provided it with the platform to build such an alternative.
Do the EFF’s post election tactics assist the working class in this direction?
The installation of DA administrations in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay has attracted admiring commentary from analysts and commentators in the bourgeois press over Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters “political maturity” in voting for DA mayors. Malema has justified the decision on the grounds that the EFF’s main strategic objective had been to break the ANC’s grip on power. The EFF Commander-in Chief declared the DA was not a corrupt party, a lesser evil – a “better devil”. The EFF’s tactics would entail not accepting any positions in council and dealing with matters on an issue by issue basis, voting with or against the DA on the merits of their policies, programmes and budgets.
According to national chairperson Dali Mpofu, the EFF central command spent sleepless nights pondering over the question of tactics given an electoral landscape in which the EFF’s main strategic objective had been achieved as the ANC suffered a humiliating defeat, but in which they had not won sufficient support to take control of councils on their own. To have entered into a coalition with either the ANC or the DA would have triggered a revolt in its ranks. They therefore decided to vote for DA mayors without entering into a formal coalition with a party that it maintains is a racist defender of white privilege and white monopoly capital. The EFF argues that with the election results having produced hung councils, it did not want to take responsibility for “collapsing service delivery” by standing in the way of the formation of a working council.
For a party that has made the battle against white privilege and the domination of the commanding heights of the economy by white monopoly capital a central plank of its political message, this decision has caused shock within the ranks of the EFF. Such was the level of dissent that the EFF central command feared that its newly elected councillors would defy the leadership and vote with the ANC. National chairperson Dali Mpofu was despatched to Nelson Mandela Bay to monitor EFF councillors on mayoral voting day after reports that EFF councillors, who found the idea of voting for Trollip as mayor so repugnant that they were tempted by ANC political appeals, backed up with significant offers of financial rewards, not to vote for the “party of the colonisers”.
The level of the leadership’s distrust of their own councillors and fears of their susceptibility to bribes obliged Malema at the EFF’s Alexandra press conference to launch a public attack on EFF members who saw in their councillor positions an opportunity for self-enrichment. In a desperate attempt to prevent simmering dissent from boiling over into open rebellion, in both Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni the EFF held up proceedings at council sittings, demanding the suspension of the rule that voting for the mayor and speaker be conducted by secret ballot to ensure that the party line would not be betrayed out of sight of scrutiny by the Central Command.
The EFF would be relieved that the line of the party Central Command has held for now. Many in the party, and voters in general, would be willing to give the leadership the benefit of the doubt. They will find the argument that the EFF found itself between a rock and a hard place persuasive. Even the humility of Malema’s acknowledgment that the voters had not given the EFF a mandate to govern would have impressed many as a show of leadership – a willingness to face the reality that the EFF vote meant that, despite the scale of the ANC’s defeat, the EFF had not succeeded in convincing voters that it was the alternative.
The Workers and Socialist Party believes the decision to vote for DA mayors was a very serious mistake. As the EFF itself acknowledges, the DA is ideologically indistinguishable from the ANC. The only difference between these two neo-liberal capitalist parties is that the DA’s commitment to neo-liberal capitalism is unconstrained by the ANC’s need to retain the support of Cosatu. Recognising, despite its extravagant electoral ambitions, that it is a party with little prospect of gaining a majority in national elections, the DA’s role has been to exert pressure on the ANC to ensure that it implements its anti-working class neo-liberal policies to the full whilst hypocritically posturing as the champions of the poor and the unemployed. This is the reason that we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of the DA organising a march on Cosatu House denouncing its opposition to the ANC’s own policy, the Youth Wage subsidy, a policy calculated to promote slave wages and to undermine the limited worker gains of the post–apartheid era.
The EFF voted for a mayor, Herman Mashaba, whose election campaign promise included the full privatisation and unbundling of the waste management entity, Pikitup, into seven different entities, to be handed to small business and run for private profit. This is nothing less than a different variety of the exact same approach as the ANC – using service delivery to open opportunities for capitalists to enrich themselves on the back of low wages and the provision of services only to those who can afford to pay for them.
Ideologically, Mashaba is the personification of the DA’s anti-working class character. He is a former chairperson of the Free Market Foundation – an organisation currently taking legal action at the Constitutional Court to destroy centralised bargaining and cripple the power of trade unions in the name of “freedom”—that is the right for bosses to pay workers slaves wages. The EFF will argue that it did not matter who the DA mayoral candidate was and accordingly did not make Mashaba’s nomination a deal breaker. But the EFF could have used the fact that the DA’s choice of Mashaba to expose what it really stands for – the rolling back of the gains of workers to the apartheid era.
The EFF defends its decision to vote for the DA mayoral candidate as an example of dealing with matters on an issue-by-issue basis – the question of the mayor being but the first on the shopping list of issues the EFF will decide how to vote on, on its merits. In WASP’s pre-election statement, we pointed out that as a serious revolutionary socialist party WASP would have taken the approach of deciding how we voted on an issue-by-issue basis. However, such a tactic is justifiable only in circumstances where WASP would have had no power to determine which party should form the administration. We would certainly not have included the question of the mayoralty as such an issue.
The question of the mayoralty may be the first on the list of matters that will be decided issue by issue; but it is not the first amongst equals. The decision to vote for the DA mayoral candidate is a qualitatively different one from the issues that the EFF will confront from now onwards. The vote for the DA mayoral candidate has had the effect of enabling the DA to form an administration in three of the country’s most important cities. Without the EFF’s support it would not have been possible for the DA to gain power.
The EFF is correct to recognise that it did not obtain a mandate to govern. But this applies as much to the DA regardless of the disparity in the size of their respective votes. The DA came close but the reality is that it failed to win an outright majority in any of the key metros. A miss is as good as a mile. It is one thing to be compelled to consider how to vote on an issue by issue basis in a council run by an ideologically hostile political party. It is quite another to assist such a party to come to power.
The EFF has further justified its support for the DA on the grounds that it is not corrupt and that the failure to allow an administration to be formed would have resulted in a collapse of service delivery. Based on the Auditor General’s report on local government performance, it cannot be disputed that DA councils are the best run in the country administratively. However it is completely wrong to claim that the DA is corruption-free. The current dispute over the contracts of senior officials in the City of Cape Town disproves this claim. Corruption is not some wart on the face of capitalism that can be surgically removed with the scalpel of moral rectitude. Corruption is the grease that makes the wheels of capitalism turn. The very notion that service delivery is possible only if they are put out to tender for private profit, if not corrupt itself, creates the conditions for it.
More importantly it is a fundamental mistake to argue that service delivery failures are the result simply of corruption, abhorrent as it is. Even without corruption no local government administration is capable of providing quality services to all on the basis of a diseased capitalist system. The root of the problem is not to be found in the moral virtues of local government elected councillors and officials. It lies in the incapacity of capitalism to meet even the most basic needs of the people.
The EFF has now placed itself in a position where it has to keep the DA in power irrespective of any differences it may have over any of the issues that may arise. The argument that it was necessary to enable the DA to form an administration on the mayoral issue, will apply every time the EFF has to vote on any DA proposal. The argument that the alternative to voting the DA into power was the possible collapse of service delivery – apart from being false – will apply to any policy the DA puts forward that is in conflict with EFF policy. The logic of the position the EFF adopted on the mayoralty means that if the DA administration is paralysed by its inability to secure a majority for any of its policies, resolutions or programmes, the EFF would have to come to its rescue … to avoid a collapse of service delivery.
The EFF in other words, has followed a tactic that effectively turns it into a prop of the DA. It may not have signed a formal coalition agreement but it has signed up for a political relationship that can justifiably be described as a coalition of a special type.
The EFF has placed itself in a position where any benefits – such as limited service delivery improvements through the freeing up of more funding that the curbing of corruption could lead to – will accrue more to the DA than to itself. On the other hand the EFF will have to take responsibility for the inevitable failure to raise the quality of service to all regardless of race or class.
WASP does not accept the argument that the EFF had no choice. In terms of the electoral law, an administration has to be formed within 90 days of the declaration of local government election results, failing which fresh elections must be held.
It is not enough for the EFF to acknowledge that it did not get a mandate from the voters. The question is “why?”. There can only be one conclusion: that the EFF’s programme did not convince the electorate that it had a solution to the problems of poor services, access to decent housing and sanitation, inequality, poverty and mass unemployment. The EFF’s radical rhetoric was clearly not persuasive. The EFF’s local government election manifesto did not mention the word socialism once.
The EFF could have gone back to the voters with a programme that for example committed it to the cancellation of all rent, rate and electricity arrears for the working class and the poor, for the introduction of tariffs based on a sliding scale, inverting the pyramid so that the rich should subsidise the poor; to end all outsourcing and to return privatised services to local government; to convert “employment opportunities” provided through EPWP, home based care, Jozi@Work, into permanent jobs with decent benefits. Such a programme would have had to be campaigned for not just through press conferences and election manifesto rallies, but through mass mobilisation including strike action.
This would have required recognising that the problems of local government cannot be separated from the problems facing the economy nationally. The EFF could have pointed to the colossal squandering of resources through unspent billions in the accounts of financial institutions lying idle for lack of profitable investment opportunities, the looting of the country through illicit capital flows etc. That the EFF did not have the courage to return to the voters suggests a lack of confidence in its own programme.
Instead the EFF voted for a mayor in Johannesburg whose programme in relation to eg Pikitup is not only a worse version of the ANC’s approach that sees in service delivery an opportunity to enrich businessmen and women. The unbundling of Pikitup will also require an all-out assault on workers’ rights and the collective bargaining system, in line with the rightwing neo-liberal views of the Freedom Foundation he once chaired. As the DA’s anti-working class programme takes off, the EFF’s tactics will be subjected to the harsh scrutiny of the class struggle. Mashaba’s Pikitup plans will be the first of these: the EFF will have to choose between keeping the DA in power or joining the workers in opposition to the very council they have enabled to take power. There are many others to follow, not the least of which is the DA’s immediate retreat from active opposition to e-tolls post-election.
WASP is committed to ensuring that the vacuum on the left is filled with a party that would provide a platform for the unification of all service delivery struggles across the county, of students involved in struggles for free education and a new trade union federation based on struggle solidarity and socialism. A defeat for an imploding ANC in the 2019 elections is now entirely within the realm of possibility. History beckons the working class to commence the building a mass workers party on a socialist programme, not just to out the ANC, but to commence the struggle for the socialist transformation of society.
Nothing could have captured the full dimensions of the ANC’s humiliation more resoundingly than Zuma’s presidential address at the official announcement of results ceremony. Four young black women, courageous anti-rape activists, stood in front of Zuma’s podium facing the entire ANC establishment, holding up placards reminding the country and the world of the rape accusations Zuma was acquitted of ten years ago.
Paralysed, the security guards could not intervene until an unsuspecting Zuma – as oblivious of what was unfolding right under his nose as he is of the political catastrophe his reign has brought on the country and his own party – completed his speech and stepped down from the podium. In a perfectly executed ambush, these activists became the focus of live television, completely overshadowing Zuma’s speech as well as the EFF’s attempt to grab the spotlight by staging a walk-out.
For the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, the ANC has polled less than 60%, declining to just under 54% of the votes cast, a fall of over 8% since the 2014 general election. Far more significant than the 3.3 million decline in its overall vote compared to the 2014 general election, was the loss of its majority in five out of the eight urban metros, including all three in Gauteng. In the southern province of the Western Cape it lost control of Beaufort West to the DA, and of Modimolle and Thabazimbi in the northern province of Limpopo. Across the country there are now 27 councils where no party has a clear majority – an unprecedented development.
The ANC emerged victorious over the opposition Democratic Alliance’s 27%. But this outcome resembled less a victory and more of a defeat, the number of votes received overshadowed by the severe battering of its arrogant belief that it was pre-ordained to rule, in Zuma’s infamous words, “until Jesus comes”. Its aura of electoral invincibility lies shattered.
Ahead of the elections, the fall of the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) metro in the Eastern Cape had been considered a prime candidate for an ANC reversal – and even that was not regarded as a dead certainty. That defeat, in the biggest city in the Eastern Cape, the ANC’s spiritual home and former fortress — the home province of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and the Mbekis, both former president Thabo and his father Govan – was hugely symbolic, and even historic in its own right.
But the importance of the humiliation inflicted in NMB is far exceeded by its defeat to the DA in the capital Tshwane and its failure, despite winning a narrow lead over the DA, to secure an outright majority in the other two Gauteng metros – the economic powerhouse of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni’s East Rand industrial belt.
Constitutionally, local governments must be formed within 90 days or fresh elections must be held. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has already issued a warning that he will invoke legislation that empowers him to take municipalities that fail to form government into administration and run them from national government. Both such developments would compete with other aspects of these elections as unprecedented.
ANC severely wounded
The combined effect of these defeats is the portrayal of the ANC as severely wounded and vulnerable to losing its majority in the 2019 general election – a prospect that has now moved beyond the fantasies of the extravagant rhetoric of the Economic Freedom Fighters, into the realm of political possibility.
Capturing one aspect of the process underlying the ANC’s decline, Wits University Professor Susan Booysen, (Business Day (04.08/16) says, “Two tectonic plates of political change are moving past each other, causing electoral tremors. The one plate represents the strong link between the ANC, the struggle and liberation consciousness. The other reflects the eroded trust in the ANC and its government and the recognition that, despite it liberation roots, the ANC is facing post liberation demands for accountability”. What is moving the plates however, is the collision between the irreconcilable class interests of the pro-capitalist ANC and the black working class which it has increasingly become alienated from, arrogantly succumbing to the belief that black working class votes were the ANC’s by historical right.
To rub salt into the ANC’s wounds, where it was knocked into second place, it was by the hated Democratic Alliance – a right wing pro-capitalist party whose historical origins stretch deep into SA’s colonial and apartheid past and which in its first post-apartheid incarnation (as the Democratic Party) obtained no more than 1.7% in the historic 1994 elections. Zuma in particular tried desperately to exploit the DA’s past with strident denunciations of any black person who could possibly contemplate voting for such a party. Repetitions of Mandela’s description of the DA as a party of white privilege whose black members are stooges of its white leadership not only had no effect but wafted across the political atmosphere like the odour of fear of impending defeat.
That this had no effect in stopping the ANC’s slide reflects the exhaustion of the ANC’s ability to rely on its liberation credentials to retain voter support. Zuma’s almost comical recital of the roll call of ANC struggle heroes contrasting them to the DA’s apartheid ancestors, was answered by a voter who said: “We want a government that can take society forward; we don’t need lectures about the past.” Despite all the rhetoric, it is not ruled out that the ANC could try and form coalitions with the DA in a desperate attempt to retain power.
Some on the left have fallen into despair over this result, in effect condemning black voters for supporting “their own oppressors”. Some have put forward the absurd perspective that the DA would now be able to return the country to apartheid. Far from this result being the consequence of a surge in DA support, it came about much more from a massive rejection of the ANC as millions stayed away from the polls. In line with trends that WASP (and its forerunner the DSM) had drawn attention to before, there has been a dramatic decline in voter participation over the previous general elections stretching back as far back as 2004. In 2014 the ANC’s 62% parliamentary majority concealed the reality that its rule was based on only 35% of the eligible voting population, just under two-thirds of it from the rural areas. Of the 26 million registered to voters this time, only 15 million participated. The ANC’s vote declined from 11,436,921 in 2014 to 8,124,223 in 2016, a massive difference of 3,312,698 votes. Its share of the eligible voting population has now fallen to 31%.
The significance of the outcome of these elections is heightened by the fact that this time the ANC has been punished in both urban and rural provinces. So while the swing away from the ANC in Gauteng since the 2011 local government election was 14%, the more rural provinces showed a very similar decline, dropping by 13% in Limpopo, in North West by 16%, in the Free State by 9% and in Mpumalanga by 8%. It grew only in KwaZulu-Natal and by a meagre 1%. (Business Day 08/08/16). The ANC held onto its majorities in the rural provinces because the DA is mainly an urban middle class phenomenon whose inroads into the black townships are mostly in the single digits.
More importantly, the DA’s victories mean no more than that it obtained the biggest share of the vote in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. With the single exception of Cape Town which it has held since 2006, returned with a 67% majority to the ANC’s humiliating 27%, and where the ANC’s election campaign could not have more effectively alienated the coloured (mixed race) voter if it was calculated to do so, did the DA defeat the ANC convincingly.
Despite the fact that general and municipal elections are not directly comparable, votes are registered in such a manner that they provide a reliable indicator of the likely outcome in both. It was the 2014 general elections that revealed the ANC’s vulnerability in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.
In fact the DA’s total of 4,028,637 votes failed to break through the heights it achieved in the 2014 general elections when it received 4,091,584 in fact a slight decline of 62,947. Convinced that it had momentum behind it, and confident that Zuma’s disastrous reign would funnel votes its way, the DA set itself a target of 30% by 2016 a target it fell short of by 3%.
As former DA staffer and now Business Day columnist Gareth van Onselen points out, in 2014 the DA “… by its own calculations, managed 760,000 black voters (less than 20%). Not all of those will have voted in 2016, so the party has captured some new black votes but, as the pool of DA voters was practically the same in 2016 (4 million votes), the proportion is unlikely to be significantly higher. Basically, in some areas the DA will have grown but high turnout (more DA votes across the demographic board) is likely to explain that, as opposed to growth among new black voters in particular. As suburban, traditionally DA, voters turned out in large numbers, the big turnout differential between suburb and townships (as much as 18%) tipped the balance away from the ANC. (Business Day 08/08/16).
Like the ANC in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, the DA, its own delusions of taking control of key metros now evaporated, has to rely on horse trading with smaller parties to form coalitions in order to govern in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. Even then, it is not at all certain that it will be able to use its majority to form a government in Tshwane where none of the smaller parties have enough votes to give it sufficient seats to do so. It is thus dependent on a coalition with the EFF to give it the necessary majority. This is something that would be possible only if the EFF wants to commit political suicide. In its short political life the EFF has built its support on a message of radical black nationalism and left populism, denouncing the DA as a racist party of white monopoly capital.
Although the EFF obtained 8.2%, retaining the position of the third biggest party it established in the 2014 elections, its breakthrough year, and becoming the second biggest party by votes in Limpopo, Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema, feigning an unusual modesty, has admitted “defeat.” The EFF leadership had set itself the target of trebling its vote and winning an unspecified number of councils. In the event they did not win one single council. Such success as the EFF has had in capitalising on disillusionment with the ANC, has fallen well short of the level of support they had hoped to use to bargain with the ANC.
In the run-up to the elections, the EFF had boasted that it would use its control of municipalities to bargain with the ANC, giving each other reciprocal support in municipalities where their votes fell short of an overall majority. The EFF clearly anticipated much more substantial support in the metros than they received. In our election statement WASP warned about the political implications of such deal-making and appealed to the EFF rank-and-file to oppose that approach.
Whether is because the EFF has heeded our warnings, or because it has simply woken up to the reality of the implications, it is has changed its position for now. It is reported to have rejected overtures from the DA in Tshwane and reaffirmed their opposition to any coalition with the ANC. It will not form coalitions with parties “that have no policies to help the African child”, ruling out a deal with the DA, and is not prepared to let the ruling party ANC back into power through the backdoor, ruling out a coalition with them.
But the language in which the EFF is couching its position still leaves the door open for such arrangements. It is willing, Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema stated, to consider “coalitions of the opposition.” There is not an ounce of radicalism let alone socialism in the policies of any of the smaller parties in parliament. Meaningful deals of any political consequence can be entered into only with the ANC or the DA. Imprisoned by its strident denunciation of both — key to cementing its support amongst the layers it has attracted — any deal with them would do enormous, possibly fatal damage to its credibility and put paid to its 2019 general election ambitions.
Despite its reiteration of its “principled positions”, the EFF is likely to come under tremendous pressure both from within the ANC’s anti-Zuma faction and even from the bourgeoisie itself. The strategists of the bourgeois have been encouraged by Malema’s growing “political maturity” as the EFF’s Commander-in-Chief steers his party, whilst reiterating its uncompromising demand for expropriation of land without compensation, more and more to the centre. The logic of this process is the divestiture of its radical socialist clothing. On key questions such as nationalisation the EFF has sent signals of its willingness to dilute its position and is increasingly portraying itself as a party of “democrats” and staunch defenders of the country’s bourgeois constitution.
The temptation to make deals will increase as the crisis within the ANC intensifies — a development that is inevitable in the wake of this disastrous result.
Already the volume of the whispered pre-election recriminations has begun to be turned upwards. Zuma has wasted little time in launching the first salvo against his detractors at a speech at a meeting in Kwa Zulu Natal, where he launched a stinging attack on former president Kgalema Motlanthe and former Cabinet Secretary the Rev Frank Chikane – both vocal critics of his presidency, asking indignantly, how he, as an ANC member, could be considered a liability.
Zuma was reacting to calls growing louder that he be recalled. But the ANC’s dominant pro-Zuma “Premier League” faction led by the premiers of the North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal will use the fact that, unlike the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, in their provinces the ANC retained its majorities to argue that the ANC’s performance has nothing to do with Zuma. They will have been encouraged by the fact that the #ZumaMustFall demonstrations following the Constitutional Court judgment — that found that Zuma had violated the constitution in using public money on his Nkandla homestead – failed to attract mass support.
Even before the elections rumours started circulating that the Gauteng provincial executive committee would be dissolved should the ANC lose. The Gauteng leadership had been vocal in their call for Zuma to consider his position in the wake of the court judgment and had attempted to keep Zuma out of the election campaign. Zuma simply swept aside their objections succeeding to turn the Gauteng structures to accept his widely derided apology over Nkandla.
But the Premier League provinces are themselves riddled with divisions. In Mpumalanga there have been physical confrontations between the SACP and the ANC. KwaZulu-Natal is split down the middle with a legal challenge to the provincial congress set to inflame these antagonisms post-election. In the North West the ANC bled votes to disgruntled ANC members who stood as independents.
The ANC’s 2016 campaign was lifted straight out of the manual of how to alienate voters and lose an election. Zuma’s dismissal of Nkandla corruption criticisms as the bleating of “clever blacks” was reinforced by secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s insult of Soweto voters for behaving like Americans with no appreciation of the right to vote. The contestation for councillor and mayoral positions was nothing more than a naked struggle for access to resources for self-enrichment. It resulted in assassinations that reached new depths of barbarity in the run-up to the 2016 elections and riots in the capital led to the loss of five lives after the ANC head office imposed their own candidate in an attempt to cut-across damaging political squabbles.
The timidity of the anti-Zuma faction meant that the face of the ANC’s campaign was a scandal-prone president whose goons in the SA Broadcasting Corporation banned images of anti-government protests only to see it overturned in the courts. Having presided over a consistent decline in ANC support in the four elections over the two terms of his presidency Zuma‘s parting gift to the ANC is the very real prospect of defeat in the 2019 elections.
Faced with the prospect of going to jail as the corruption charges he has so far managed to evade have been reinstated, Zuma has not the slightest intention of changing course. He will continue to abuse state resources and the legal process in his Stalingrad strategy to put off the commencement of any possible trial until he has seen out his term as ANC president in 2017 and of the country in 2019. There will be renewed internal conflict as the succession battle escalates.
It remains to be seen whether the anti-Zuma faction will grow a spine as the prospects of defeat in 2019 looms and with it the loss of control over state resources and the opportunities to loot and plunder the country. Zuma in the meantime will tighten his grip over the police, the intelligence services, and state-owned enterprises. Itself as committed to the ANC’s neo-liberal capitalist policies as the Zuma faction, the anti-Zuma faction has no alternative vision to offer and thus incapable of inspiring confidence, from within and without the ANC, that the party could be saved from implosion.
Whatever the outcome of the ANC’s internal factional struggle, it is collectively responsible for the Marikana massacre, the accelerated widening of the gap between rich and poor, mass unemployment and deepening poverty that occurred on Zuma’s watch. The conditions facing the masses are set to worsen as the country’s economy, likely to grow a paltry 0.1% this year, faces the likelihood of a rating agency downgrade as the world economy continues its failure to emerge from the Great Recession of the 2008 and faces the possibility of a new and worse crash. Zuma’s legacy is likely to be not only a divided if not a completely fractured ANC but a disastrous economic landscape.
Lack of resources prevented WASP from contesting the 2016 elections. The path to standing in the 2019 general elections begins now.