NUMSA celebrates the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917
One hundred years ago on the 7th November 1917 (or the 25th of October in the old style Russian calendar) the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin launched an armed insurrection against the Duma, which is the legislative body in the ruling assembly of Russia. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in Petrograd, and soon a new government was formed.
The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 resulted in an upheaval of the social fabric of Russian society. After the October Revolution, no one could deny the remarkable strength and unity of the working class and the peasantry. For the first time in human history, political power and the state were transferred to the working class majority; the dictatorship of the bourgeois state was replaced by a democracy of a workers state.
Fast track 100 years later to present-day South Africa and the conditions which were facing workers in Russia, are similar to the conditions facing workers today. The working class and the poor are suffering under the oppression of the neo-liberal capitalist system. More than half of the South African population lives in poverty; at least 35 percent of the working population is unemployed in a society which has the highest levels of inequality in the world.
The majority of the working class and the poor live a dehumanizing existence in slums and informal settlements, which do not have basic services like water and electricity. Furthermore, they are denied access to quality education or healthcare. The same conditions which were responsible for the suffering of the African working class majority continue to persist 23 years after the end of the brutal racist Apartheid system.
We now know that the negotiated settlement which ended the repressive regime of the racist National Party government, in fact resulted in a more sanitized version of Apartheid which is being administered by a Black government through the ANC.
The ANC’s biggest failure was selling out the revolution through the negotiated settlement. A deal was done with capital to ensure that this government would continue to serve the interests of white monopoly capital and that is precisely what they have done for the last 23 years. The deal was that South African capital and the white population will continue to own and control the economy, and the Reserve Bank and National Treasury will preserve the value of white wealth at all cost, even at the expense of the working class and the poor.
The role of the National Treasury and the Reserve bank is to maintain high interest rates. They have liberalized trade and removed exchange controls allowing money which we desperately need to be invested in productive sectors of the economy to create jobs, to leave the country. It is also very clear that the ANC government was in power to run an inferior budget, for inferior people who will continue to be regarded as such. If Africans were not regarded as inferior, they would not be squashed into slums and informal settlements when this country has an abundance of land. It has been over a hundred years since Africans were dispossessed of their land through the 1913 Land Act, and yet its effects continue in 2017.
The ANC through the implementation of neo-liberal macro-economic capitalist policies like GEAR and the National Development Plan is upholding and defending inequality. That is why according to Oxfam’s report: “An economy of the 99%” after more than two decades of so-called democracy, the entire wealth of the country is in the hands of three white billionaires. Only wealthy capitalists are free to enjoy the full fruits of democracy, whilst the working class majority continues to languish under the oppressive burden created by poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
The working class in South Africa is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The governing party is persistent in attacking the working class. It has implemented labour brokering and commodified the roads through e-tolls. It is now trying to undermine the power of the working class to negotiate better working conditions, by putting in measures in place to limit the right to strike. It has legalized slave wages through the proposed National Minimum Wage of R20 per hour. It has done all this with the help of weak yellow trade union federations like COSATU and FEDUSA who have sold out the working class to fulfill their own narrow political agenda.
Furthermore, the intense battle we are witnessing between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, can be summed up as the battle between two capitalist factions who are fighting for control of the fiscus. Whoever wins at the end of the day will continue to exploit the working class just like they have been doing for the last 23 years.
That is why the achievements of the Russian working class are so significant. It is proof that true power lies in the hands of the working class. The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 proved that a new civilization based on genuine human equality is not only desirable but is possible if the working class is united behind a common vision. Genuine radical economic transformation can only happen if the working class is organized as a class for itself, so that it can transform society for its own benefit. A truly just and equitable society is possible, but only if the working class is in control.
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary
*The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is commemorating this revolutionary moment with a week long celebration of the Russian Revolution.
Statement issued by Phakamile Hlubi, NUMSA National Spokesperson, 7 November 2017