Slides for NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim's address to the NUMSA Political School, January 26 2014
History of all hitherto existing society is the history of all class struggles
Structure of the Presentation
Why the working class needs to organise itself as a class for itself
- Why existing forms of organisation of the working class are not adequate
- Summary of what we understand the NDR to be about
- How the Freedom Charter has been abandoned
- Critique of ANC Vision 2014 and 2014 Manifesto
- Why Numsa's resolutions are correct
The working class must consciously organise itself as a class if it is to lead the democratic revolution
Marxism-Leninism teaches us that, at all material times, we must fiercely defend the political independence of the proletariat from petit-bourgois and bourgeois influences, if the proletariat is to lead the democratic revolution.
Hence, as Lenin said, "the proletariat can play the leading part in this (democratic) revolution only if it is welded into a united and independent political force under the banner of the Social-Democratic Labour Party, which is to guide its struggle not only ideologically but practically as well".
The Communist Manifesto states: "All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority".
Lenin says: "In a word, in order to avoid finding itself with its hands tied in the struggle against the inconsistent bourgeois democrats, the proletariat must be sufficiently class conscious and strong to rouse the peasantry to revolutionary consciousness, to direct its attack, and thereby to pursue the line of consistent proletarian democratism independently".
By calling for the political independence of the working class we do not reject class alliances
However the most important precondition for any class alliance is the complete, separate, party political independence of the working class from bourgeois and petit-bourgeois political influences.
Our tactic should be that we "strike jointly" with our class allies, but we march completely separately! The independence of the working class must be guarded jealously even against the most friendly among the petit-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie.
Lenin makes this absolutely clear in his Two Tactics, when he says: "A Social- Democrat must never for a moment forget that the proletariat will inevitably have to wage the class struggle for Socialism even against the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. This is beyond doubt. Hence the absolute necessity of a separate, independent, strictly class party of Social-Democracy. Hence the temporary nature of our tactics of "striking jointly" with the bourgeoisie and the duty of keeping a strict watch "over our ally, as over an enemy," etc.
The Numsa Special National Congress said the current Alliance with the ANC and the SACP is not taking us forward towards Socialism
In the struggle against apartheid, the working class was striking jointly with the democratic black petit-bourgeoisie and sections of the democratic bourgeoisie, but the political independence of the working class is now being dissolved into bourgeois democracy.
This is the kernel of the perspective that was articulated by the Numsa Special National Congress when it said: "The Alliance has been captured and taken over by right-wing forces. Those who are perceived to be against neo-liberalism or to be advocates of policies in favour of the working class and the poor are seen as problematic, isolated or purged".
We saw the Alliance, particularly the ANC, refusing to nationalise the mines, monopoly industries and the banks and the SACP, after some flip-flops, finally endorsed the SIMS report, which was commissioned by the ANC and paid for by the Chamber of Mines. The SACP endorsed this report which says nationalisation will lead to unmitigated economic disaster.
For more than 20 years, the apartheid labour market has not been transformed. Year in year out a series of Employment Equity Reports show that the white population continues to control the economy and the wage structure remains racist and colonial. There is no equal pay for work of equal value.
The little progress we achieved in the Labour Relations Act is now seen as a threat to jobs and labour brokers have not been banned.
Without a political party committed to Socialism in theory and practice, the working class will not be independent
There are those who say Numsa is wrong to have taken a resolution that the working class must abandon the ANC-led Alliance. They say that we risk splitting the democratic movement and entrenching the right wing. They say the Numsa resolution will secure victories to our class enemies and imperialist forces will win the day.
The Numsa leadership in particular, was accused of working with imperialist forces to weaken and ultimately overthrow the national liberation movement. This is what is being pontificated by some "advanced quarters".
Here is a fact: Already the enemy class, white monopoly capital, has been celebrating for the victories it has scored under the ANC-led Alliance. They managed to send money abroad through capital flight because of dismantling of exchange controls, financial speculation has rapidly increased, and South Africa is used as an imperialist base to re-colonise the continent.
The major banks are foreign-owned, all mines are foreign-owned, big monopolies such as Iscor (Arcelor-Mittal and Kumba Iron Ore Mines), SASOL, pharmaceuticals and forestry companies are foreign-owned, etc. The economy is more foreign-owned now than under apartheid.
Imperialist domination has accelerated its grip on the South African economy.
The financial sector: Dominated by 4 large privately owned banks (ABSA, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank). ABSA is 56% foreign-owned, Standard Bank is at least 40% foreign owned. The Reserve Bank privately owned.
SASOL is about 30% foreign-owned and Arcelor-Mittal is 65% foreign owned.
The pharmaceuticals sector:is Dominated by foreign-owned Aspen, Adcock-Ingram, Sanofi, Pfizer, Norvatis, etc. have all significant foreign-ownership. Today these companies are blackmailing the country and the minister is accusing them of genocide and chemical warfare. As the working class we should ask: what happened to the 100% state-owned pharmaceutical company that we called for?
Telecommunications: The Thintana Telkom Deal in 1997 (Malaysians and Americans), which led to massive job losses in Telkom from 67 000 to 25 000, has left the country poorer and in a worse socio-economic position.
The construction sector is also monopolised, dominated by four players: Murray & Roberts, WBHO, Aveng and Group 5, with foreign ownership.
These facts, which are just the tip of an iceberg, show that our enemy class is already much more jubilant about what has transpired since 1994. Is the ANC manifesto in any way changing these power relations in the economy?
Even the Vision 2014 announced in 2004 that was promised to the working class has not been fulfilled, and the current ANC Manifesto adds promises on top of broken ones
Reduce unemployment by half: In 2004 the unemployment rate was 23%, but in 2013 it had risen to 24.7%. In 2004 the number of unemployed was 3.7 million, but in 2013 it had risen to 4.1 million.
Reduce poverty by half: In 2004 the number of social grant recipients was 7.8 million, but in 2011 the number of social grant recipients had risen to 15.5 million. In 2004 the percentage of people living below R524 a month was 48%, but in 2011 this had increased to 52.3%. This means that in 2004 people who were living below R524 were 22 million, by 2011 this number had increased to 26.5 million.
Provide the skills required by the economy: According to the Department of Labour's National Scarce Skills List in 2008 the total skills shortage in the economy was 512 357 people, the Department of Higher Education and Training's Skills Demand List reports that in 2012 the total skills shortage had increased to 1.7 million people.
Someone even promised to eliminate informal settlements by 2014!
Now we have a 2014 Manifesto that has yet another Vision 2030 of the NDP.
As Numsa we are doing a thorough analysis of all the Manifestos since 1994.
The working class is not at the helm of the Alliance
Colins Chabane is quoted as saying: "The government is not in alliance with the Congress of SA Trade Unions. It is in alliance with the ANC". He is further cited as saying that any conflict that arises over the NDP would be between the ANC and the COSATU, and would not involve government.
Pravin Gordhan is quoted as saying: "I think we make too much of alliance politics ... alliance politics doesn't dominate all of the policy making and policy implementation in South Africa... It probably dominates the conversation in a few not unimportant areas, but they are few".
President Jacob Zuma is quoted as saying: ""When, for an example, if labour believes it can co-govern, that's the mistake, you can't, because if that were the case it would be another system".
President of COSATU Sdumo Dlamini agrees that the working class cannot govern with the bourgeoisie, he is quoted as saying: "That is true, we cannot co-govern with the ANC". He forgot that we called for the Alliance to be the "political centre of power".
The general view is that organised workers should be consigned to the barracks of the shopfloor and emerge to only vote, after voting they must go back to the barracks. We cannot be "gumboots unions".
We say that the working class, in trade unions and outside of trade unions, must be independently welded into a political party through which it must govern. They must take keen interest in governing the country.
If anything, those who oppose the working class co-governing, prove that Numsa is correct to say
In practice the Alliance is still in the hands of one alliance partner, the ANC. The ANC is the centre and implements government programmes and policies alone, with little or no consultation with other components of the Alliance.
The treatment of labour as a junior partner within the Alliance is not uniquely a South African phenomenon. In many post-colonial and post-revolutionary situations, liberation and revolutionary movements have turned on labour movements that fought alongside them, suppressed them, marginalised them, split them, robbed them of their independence or denied them any meaningful role in politics and policy-making.
As Numsa we have been detecting an abuse by the ANC of other Alliance partners. The alliance is used to rubber stamp neo-liberal policies of the ANC and not as a centre of power that debates policy issues and implementation.
The Alliance operates and works during election periods and it is our experience that the working class is being used by the leader of the Alliance - the African National Congress (ANC) - as voting fodder.
What we have just said about the Alliance was noted by the Numsa Special National Congress. Within ONE MONTH after our Special National Congress, we were told that we cannot co-govern, and indeed, true to form, the President of COSATU agrees that the working class cannot govern the country along side the bourgeoisie as a transitional situation towards full worker control!
Those who say Numsa is wrong to ditch the ANC-led Alliance must take heed of what Engels said in 1850
Engels said: "The workers must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers' candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled".
When we talk about the need for an independent vanguard party to champion the interests of the proletariat, we are being frightened that the Alliance will break.
When we are inside the Alliance and say that the Alliance must be the political centre of policy formulation and implementation, we are rebuked that we cannot "co-govern". We are told that we confuse "minimum and maximum" programmes, and that as trade unions we must go back to basics, which is focusing only on shopfloor issues and leave political power to the ANC.
In this process of the working class being managed, poverty, unemployment and exploitation are rising.
This is exactly what Engels warned the working class against, way back in 1850!
Let us learn from history comrades, we are the industrial proletariat, we possess international experiences summarised in Marxist-Leninist theory
The NDR has never been the minimum programme of the ANC-Alliance, the Freedom Charter is the minimum programme
President Zuma is quoted as saying: "That is why in the alliance we use the term, a minimum programme of the alliance; it cannot be maximum. Now if all of us, whether in labour or in the ANC, failed to understand that difference, then we have a problem, because we are likely to overstretch issues that are not supposed to be overstretched and begin to think that in fact, as the labour movement, you begin to determine how the party, the government of the ANC, must continue governing and implementing policy. Of course it cannot happen". And Sdumo agrees!
ANC SG Gwede Mantashe says: "The tripartite alliance is an alliance between the national liberation movement and the two working class formations. These partners do not melt into an alliance and lose their class character and ideological outlook. They understand the National Democratic Revolution as the minimum programme. It is the preparedness to compromise that has made our unique alliance to work. We must continue working for the unity and cohesion of the alliance".
But the confusion seems to emanate from the SACP, when it says: "For the SACP a radical NDR is our minimum programme".
So the so-called minimum programme that everybody is talking about is the NDR. But this is pure confusion because the NDR is a revolutionary strategy, and its minimum programme is the Freedom Charter. In short, if the NDR is the minimum programme, then what is the Freedom Charter?
When we call for the Freedom Charter, as the minimum programme that informs the Strategy of the NDR, we are not "overstretching" anything.
This basic confusion between strategy and programme, explains why Numsa Special National Congress was correct to note that: "There exists little common understanding within the Alliance of the real objectives of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR)".
That is why Numsa is correct to form an independent, mass political party of the working class that is committed to socialism
We are of the view that, as Engels put it: "Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention....The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body".
The independent vanguard party that Numsa has resolved to be the catalyst to, will not "aspire to a change in social conditions which will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable as possible" to quote Engels, but it its sole aim will be to stretch bourgeois democracy to its utmost limits, to show that bourgeois democracy is incapable of meeting the aspirations of the working class majority.
In this sense, the party we call for will not embed itself in the capitalist state.
It will retain its independence to agitate and mobilise the working class against the very capitalist state and the dominance of white monopoly capital.
The independent vanguard party of the working class that we envisage will not be a lapdog
Our envisaged party will call for nationalisation. If the bourgeoisie agrees, we will call for nationalisation without compensation. If the bourgeoisie agrees, we call for nationalisation without compensation under worker control.
Our envisaged party will call for progressive taxation. If the bourgeosie agrees, we call for heaviest taxation to the point of bankrupting the rich, if they agree, we will call for abolition of inheritance.
All these demands will be about dealing a blow to private domination by a few individuals of decisive means of production. None of such demands emanated from the SACP.
That is why in Numsa we say: "The South African Communist Party (SACP) leadership has become embedded in the state and is failing to act as the vanguard of the working class".
The envisaged vanguard party of the working class will be rooted in the United Front
As NUMSA, we must lead in the establishment of a new UNITED FRONT that will coordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities, in a way similar to the UDF of the 1980s. The task of this front will be to fight for the implementation of the Freedom Charter and be an organisational weapon against neoliberal policies such as the NDP.
In the same way the united front tactic has nothing to do with the so-called ‘electoral combinations' of leaders in pursuit of one or another parliamentary aim.
The united front tactic is simply an initiative to join with all workers belonging in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.
We therefore think that every action, even the most trivial everyday demand, can lead to revolutionary awareness and revolutionary education; it is the experience of struggle that will convince workers of the need for socialism.
The key thing therefore, in this united front will be that it must be based on concrete struggles, and not on some historical sentiment or holding hands of leaders in front of media cameras
Issued by NUMSA, January 26 2014
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