Our position on the ANC succession debate - COSATU

Meeting of the SCEC resolved to allow more space for its affiliates to further engage on this matter

COSATU Special Executive Committee meeting statement- 19 September 2016

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a Special Central Executive Committee meeting yesterday 19th September 2016, which was attended by the national office bearers, the representatives of its affiliated unions and provincial structures.

The meeting was convened to discuss specific political and organisational matters, including developing a shared understanding on how COSATU should respond to the current political challenges. We also discussed our preparations for the upcoming meetings including the Alliance Political Council, Alliance Summit, the Policy Conference and the bilateral meeting with the SACP.

We approached this meeting without losing sight of the bleak reality that we are still faced by a systemic crisis of global capitalism that has affected the workers and working class the most.  The whole situation has created serious risks for the workers, with a rise in retrenchments and unemployment, privatisation of public services, cuts in social spending and low wages and low pensions.

The current international context is also marked by an increasingly aggressive posture on the part of western imperialism around the world, with many developing countries dealing with sponsored revolutions in the form of armed insurgence or riots. The unfolding all-round crisis of global capitalism underscores the insights of Vladimir Lenin, that the epoch of imperialism is one which. “is relatively much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous and conflicting, an epoch which for the mass of the population is typified not so much by a “horror without end” as by a “horrible end’

The meeting was clear that in dealing with the bigger political questions going forward, COSATU should avoid short cut solutions and should thoroughly recognize subjective and objective factors, be clear that our primary enemy is monopoly capital; classify what is organic and what is conjectural and separate the progressive forces of socialism from the degenerate forces of capitalism 

International Day of Action strike-07 October 2016

The federation has been busy with its Back to Basics and Listening campaign that involved convening Shopsteward meetings and visiting workplaces to hear what are the immediate challenges facing workers. This is in line with our mandate delivered by both the 2015 Special National Congress and the 12th National Congress, where workers instructed the federation to go back to basics.

We have been busy with our recruitment campaign focusing on vulnerable workers. The mineworkers, who produce our wealth and are carrying this economy on their backs, are unhappy to be earning a tiny fraction of the surplus they produce. Farm workers, who produce our food and are feeding the nation are angered by the near slavery working conditions they are subjected to. Retail and commercial workers, many of them casualised women without basic benefits are complaining that they are barely surviving and they are even struggling to make enough to pay for their transport.

Security workers who protect us, and transport workers, who take us to work every day and keep the wheels of the economy rolling were telling us that they are forced to work unbelievably long hours for a pittance. Our nurses, teachers and police feel that they are not being fairly paid for the valuable services they provide and are sometimes victims of crime and terrible working conditions. They are also demanding that the unemployed police reservists and part-time teachers to be permanently employed

All workers unanimously want the total banning of labour brokers, scrapping of e-tools and are unhappy with the ongoing retrenchments. They told us that they demand a living wage starting with the national minimum wage and are fully supportive of the NHI and are unwavering in their demand for a comprehensive social security system and retirement reform that is informed by their needs and demands.

The message from them is clear; they want the federation to remain occupied with broad social and political issues, as well as the immediate concerns of its members. They said that we must continuously strive to remain a social force for transformation. We know that our influence at all levels is dependent on our organised power, our capacity to mobilise, our socio - economic programmes and policies and our participation in political and social alliances.

This is the reason why ,we resolved to  embark on a one day national strike on the 07th October 2016 during the International Day of Action .We are calling on all our members and workers in general to participate in the mobilisation process that will involve pickets , demonstrations and workplace meetings  all around the country. We invite all workers to come out in their numbers on the 07th October 2016, to join the federation in its one day national strike in response to the challenges facing the workers.

State of the Alliance

The meeting acknowledged that for the first time over many decades, the historically unsurpassed popularity and hegemony of the ANC led Alliance and all formations of the democratic movement without exception is being challenged. This is happening at the workplace level amongst workers, amongst politically active students and in our communities. The meeting accepted that the different components of the movement are not as strong as they should be and that the current political crisis faced by the African National Congress is symbolic of the state of our organisations and our Alliance.

In response to this, we resolved that we shall take responsibility for dealing with these developments in our political landscape, as represented by visible convergence and gradual build up in the number of forces that have set out to defeat our movement in the streets and through the courts. Our biggest and most immediate mission is to ensure that both the Alliance and the mass democratic movement are not found wanting in dealing with these unprecedented political challenges that we are currently facing.

The SCEC acknowledged that we are not only dealing with the weakening support of the ANC and the incoherence of the Alliance but also with the social despondency caused by the pressures of the economic crisis that have been used to create a fertile ground for mobilisation in pursuit of the regime change agenda. On the other hand, in the midst of a stagnant economy with high unemployment, poverty and inequalities, the masses of our people who are themselves disappointed by the scale of corruption and some of the service delivery failures, find themselves confused and angry. They are bombarded by sustained politically biased media coverage as part of the agenda of those who want to stage a coup, which is the removal of a democratically elected President, the same phenomenon that happened in Brazil.

COSATU will respond to this situation by working to correct the one identified mistake that was done by the federation and the Alliance in general. Despite the convergence within the ANC-led Alliance around the need for fundamental transformation of our economy, COSATU acknowledges that it was a mistake to allow this second phase to remain largely at the level of intent and objectives rather than on the content of what needed to be done in concrete and practical terms. This is what will occupy us moving forward and we shall mobilise the workers around this cause.

ANC and the Succession debate

The current political and economic challenges are happening in the midst of a raging contest, on who should lead the ANC out of its current quagmire into the future. In dealing with this issue, COSATU has argued that all discussions should take place with the intent of uniting the ANC and the Alliance but also to open a new path that will see the ANC abandoning the politics of slates that breeds the fallacy of composition. This slate politics has seen the movement dismissing many people as rotten or unfit on the grounds of one component that it didn't like about them or for belonging to a wrong slate.

The ANC succession question has been complicated by the fact that COSATU has not done a collective characterisation and understanding of the class politics of the forces that are currently waging factional battles within the ANC in order to formulate its posture accordingly. Complicating the issues further, is the fact that we are yet to finalise the formulation of our own new mid-term strategic perspective to help provide a cohesive framework of what needs to be done on all fronts.

Informed by the need to pursue the radical second phase of transformation ,COSATU in its 12th Congress argued that we should contest the content of the radical second phase on class content first but many affiliates later asserted that the class content and character of the leadership are inseparable and cannot be divorced from each other.

In this regard, the SCEC instructed the federation to be forthright about its position regarding the succession debate and must be more aggressive, when putting the demands of the workers and the working class at the appropriate time. For now, the meeting resolved to allow more space for its affiliates to further engage on this matter; so that they can all do the necessary groundwork to consult workers guided by the following criteria to guide members in their discussions:

- Commitment to the radical NDR and thorough-going transformation

- Proven commitment to the Alliance

- Commitment to the fight against corruption

- Commitment to the unity of the ANC and the democratic movement

- Commitment to make this decade truly a decade of workers and the poor

- Commitment to defending and preserving the anti imperialist and internationalist character of the ANC.

- Rooted in or with a background in working class movement

The workers should not only be looking at the position of the president but at a leadership collective that will act as the centre and also be guided by the resolutions of the ANC. The meeting also resolved to reiterate its call for an extended Alliance meeting to discuss and resolve all the issues facing the movement and the alliance in general.

SACP and State power!-

The meeting noted that whilst COSATU and SACP may have had individual campaigns and occasional joint actions, such as the march in KZN; they do not have any joint visible and consistent programmes on the ground to consciously implement decisions from their own bilateral meetings, which were meant to intensify class battles. This has become worse in the current period where there have been no coherent response to the current political challenges in the country.   

COSATU also noted that there are already calls from some structures of the SACP to contest state power. This is not a new call though because we often hear it being made every time, when relations within the Alliance are bad or dysfunctional. We have resolved to engage the SACP on this matter in our bilateral meeting today, because we suspect that by “state power” some proponents of this call merely refer to being elected to legislatures or at best into political office.

We shall have a thoroughgoing discussion on what the state and the government of the day are and about the location of power in a capitalist society. COSATU accepts that this issue has created a lot of confusion in the discussion around state capture with some people referring to the alleged undue and direct influence apparently exerted by the Guptas in the office of President Jacob Zuma as “state capture.”

COSATU is arguing that in a capitalist society the state and the government of the day do not exist as stand-alone entities, disconnected from societal class relations. Whilst they may have relative autonomy, which is why they are contested, ultimately they reflect the balance of class forces of a capitalist society. The South African state is a capitalist state and so if the balance of class forces favours the ruling bourgeois class, then the state would reflect that bourgeois hegemony.

This bourgeois hegemony is exercised over society as an organic whole, including the state, and it imposes limits with regard to what the government of the day can do. Hence, despite resolutions of ANC conferences and Alliance summits, macroeconomic policies are dictated by finance monopoly capital, whilst the sovereign rating agencies provide an on-going oversight role.

COSATU is arguing that sometimes the organs and functions of the South African state are even outsourced to capital, including policy-making and research. Therefore, the overarching question of the moment is not whether or not there is corporate capture of the state, but it is whether the ANC has the capacity, consciousness and commitment to use its access to the state to resist the power of monopoly capital and to catalyse radical socio-economic transformation.

This debate is totally different from the question of the alleged corruptive relationship between the President and the Guptas, a phenomenon that is also replicated at provincial and local government levels where tenderpreneurs are power-brokers and influence outcomes of regional and provincial leadership contests.

Finally , COSATU is adamant that the only tried and tested approach is for every set back in a revolution, to be quickly studied of its fundamental causes, then lessons should be drawn and a way forward should be determined by the collective revolutionary contingent.

Statement issued by Sizwe Pamla, COSATU National Spokesperson, 20 September 2016