Mantashe’s fear and loathing – a reply

The Democratic Socialist Movement has written a reply to Gwede Mantashe, ANC general secretary, who continues to attack the Workers & Socialist Party, our affiliates and their predecessors.

Gwede Mantashe, general secretary of the ANC, in a new opinion piece published in the Mail & Guardian (18 July 2014), attacks the Workers & Socialist Party (WASP), the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), one of the founders of WASP, and Liv Shange, a leader in both organisations, yet again. Mantashe fears the DSM and WASP because we demonstrate the clearest understanding of the processes under way in society that point to the inevitable break between the working class majority of South Africa and the ANC. Mantashe loathes DSM because of all the forces on the left, we drew the conclusion earliest, and have since articulated it most clearly, that the working class must set about the task of building its own party – a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme. Mantashe loathes DSM because we have acted upon that conclusion in the founding of WASP, attempting to draw together the forces that could lay the foundations of such a party. And in co-founding WASP, we have helped accelerate the process further by influencing the debates now taking place in Numsa and concentrating the minds of the founders of the Economic Freedom Fighters to take the plunge, demonstrating the rotten-ripeness of an idea whose time has come.

But going further back in time, the spectre of the Marxist Workers Tendency (MWT), a forerunner of the DSM, continues to haunt Mantashe. He refers in his comment piece to “entryism” as exemplifying the “dishonest” methods of past ANC “backstabbers”, methods he accuses WASP of today. This is clearly a reference to the MWT, which from the 1970s through to 1996, operated within the ANC to champion the interests of the working class by arguing for socialism within the liberation struggle. We joined the ANC because the working class looked towards it as the leader of the struggle against the racist apartheid segregation system. However, the perspective of the MWT was always that the working classes’ loyalty to the ANC could only ever be a temporary phenomenon given the cross-class nature of the ANC and the liberation struggle itself. We warned that the ANC leadership would betray the working classes’ socialist aspirations unless the ANC was transformed and the leadership placed decisively in the hands of the working class upon the basis of a real commitment to socialism. Unless that happened, a parting of the ways was inevitable.

With the adoption of GEAR in 1996, the prospect of the ANC becoming a vehicle for the working class to create a socialist society was dealt a death blow. Reorganising ourselves as the DSM, we withdrew from the ANC and began arguing for the creation of a workers’ party and supporting all initiatives that tended in that direction. Almost alone on the left, the DSM championed that idea. The methods of struggle of the mineworkers in 2012 and their reaction to Marikana was a stunning confirmation of DSM’s perspective. It became clear that the birth of a workers’ party was now firmly on the agenda amongst the advanced sections of the working class – with the mineworkers at the forefront. WASP was founded to help act as a midwife to such a mass party.

Mantashe was well aware of the existence of the MWT at the time and one of those prominent in witch-hunts against our members when inside the ANC. It is surely not lost on Mantashe that our perspective has been borne out. The history of the ANC in government, where the interests of the working class have consistently been subordinated to the interests of the capitalist class, is conclusive proof.

In the development of WASP, important historical knots have been retied that will further haunt Mantashe. The decision of Moses Mayekiso to join WASP unites another important strand from the liberation struggle that was always sceptical of the ANC’s support for the working class. Playing a pivotal role in the foundation of Cosatu, it was Mayekiso who moved a motion at Cosatu’s 1993 congress on behalf of Numsa as its then general secretary, calling for the creation of a workers’ party to contest the first free elections. The motion was lost, but an important reference point was laid down. Twenty years later the working class is examining anew, and with serious intent, the idea that they need their own party with Numsa once again at the forefront.

Mantashe is obsessed with WASP because he feels the ground shifting beneath the ANC and it recalls in his mind that the eclipse of the ANC has long been foretold by the MWT and Mayekiso and the left of the early labour movement. And what are these shifting sands? In the 2014 elections the ANC’s vote continued to slide with the numbers not voting far outweighing the number who voted ANC; the biggest trade union in the country until Marikana – the NUM – has been reduced to a rump in the mining heartlands precisely because of its support for the ANC’s pro-capitalist policies; the inheritor of the mantle of largest trade union, Numsa, resolved not to campaign for the ANC in the 2014 elections and is openly discussing the formation of a new workers’ party;  Cosatu is in crisis fundamentally over what attitude to take toward the ANC with a split likely sooner or later; the reduction of the ANC in the 2014 elections to just 36% in the metros and urban areas, to which the rural municipalities and small towns will rapidly catch-up, indicates the advanced stage of the break between the ANC and the working class and middle class; and the post-election publishing of an opinion poll showing that one third of South African adults think a “workers’ or labour party will assist with  current problems facing SA”.

All this taken together is a stunning confirmation of the analysis put forward by WASP and the DSM and the MWT before that. Mantashe fears us and obsesses over us because he can see that we have been right all along.

Mantashe finds ‘new’ angle to attack from

In his new opinion piece, Mantashe retracts his claim that WASP, and Liv Shange, WASP’s deputy general secretary were behind the five month platinum strike. Of course WASP never claimed to be leading the 2014 platinum strike or to have any special influence on its course. This was always Mantashe’s invention and as we have consistently pointed out an insult to the intelligence of the mineworkers. Mantashe now says that his “reference to foreign nationals disguising their attempts to hijack the strike under the cloak of solidarity was not about [Shange]”. This directly contradicts Zizi Kodwa, ANC spokesperson, who in clarifying Mantashe’s comments about “white foreign nationals” said Mantashe was “only” speaking about Shange. (Shange, a resident of SA for over ten years is originally from Sweden.)

Accusing WASP of “dishonesty”, Mantashe goes on to claim that we hoped “to use AMCU to create WASP” and that this is at “the core of the feud between the leaderships of the AMCU and the WASP”. These comments are all calculated to drive a wedge between WASP and the mineworkers. Indeed, Mantashe’s comments do not repeat any of his previous criticisms of the AMCU leadership, choosing to appear as their defenders in this instance all the better to attack WASP.

As is to be anticipated, there is a struggle over the real history of the mining industry, especially of the period from Marikana to early 2013. The ANC, the AMCU leadership, even the EFF in their new book The Coming Revolution, have all re-told the story of that period to suit their own sectarian interests. Mantashe is hoping to add a new voice to this chorus in his latest claims. Even Rehad Desai of the Democratic Left Front, in his film about the Marikana massacre, erases the role of DSM from the history of that period. Our account of this period is already a matter of public record, but we will nevertheless repeat some basic points here.

DSM and WASP’s first loyalty has always been to the mineworkers, regardless of their union affiliation. Our unwavering support for the platinum strike and the mineworkers’ demand for a living wage of R12 500 testifies to that. The DSM played a key role in the mining industry immediately after Marikana, linking up the independent strike committees that had sprung-up immediately before the massacre as mineworkers expelled the treacherous NUM officials from the shafts. The strike committees linked-up first on a Rustenburg wide level and later on a national level. WASP was founded in December 2012 by the DSM and six of these strike committees. In early March 2013 the National Strike Committee, representing mineworkers in the North West, Limpopo and Gauteng, endorsed the launching of WASP as their party, which took place two weeks later, with delegations of mineworkers from across the country in attendance.

Throughout the second half of 2012 and the first months of 2013, a situation of effective dual power existed in the mines.  The independent strike committees continued to have the overwhelming confidence and loyalty of the mineworkers as AMCU began taking very cautious steps to recruit outside of their small pockets of members in Rustenburg and the Gauteng gold fields. Recognising the need for a registered trade union, DSM encouraged mineworkers to join AMCU. However we warned that this must not be at the expense of the mineworkers’ newly won independence and that the strike committees should be maintained whilst AMCU’s democratic credentials were tested out. But the AMCU leadership saw the existence of the strike committees as a threat and worked to close them down and simultaneously remove the influence of DSM. This process played out over many months.

This is the origin of the differences between WASP and the AMCU leadership. Our criticism of the AMCU leadership sharpened when it was clear that they would not honour the democratic decisions of the strike committees and support WASP or even the idea of a workers’ party. In fact, the AMCU leadership has done everything possible to block WASP from the mining areas by spreading lies and expelling our members and former strike committee leaders from the union. If there is a “feud” it is waged by the AMCU leadership against WASP. The AMCU leadership has taken refuge behind their so-called ‘apolitical’ position, supposedly in the interests of mineworker ‘unity’, to justify their betrayal of the clear position taken by the mineworkers on the question of a new party. And maybe this explains, why on this occasion, Mantashe is willing to mute his criticisms of AMCU and imply common cause with its leadership against WASP’s “dishonest” methods.

Whilst all of this was a set-back for WASP in the short-term and a complication on the road to a new workers’ party, the mineworkers’ remain at the forefront of the struggles of the working class and the rising tide of working class struggle and the political conclusions that will inevitably flow from that – the need for a workers’ party on a socialist programme.


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