NUMSA's assessment of the EFF

Union says there are two key gaps, from a working class perspective, in the positions of the Fighters (Dec 2013)

Extract from Secretariat Report to NUMSA Special National Congress December 17 to 20, 2013

Economic Freedom Fighters

The EFF is a very young organisation (launched in July 2013), which makes it more difficult to be certain about the class composition of its membership.

1. Class composition

The class composition seems to be predominantly working class youth, with some membership amongst workers themselves. There is a very high rate of unemployment amongst working class youth. Unemployed working class youth, as a social force, differ from the organised working class in their relation to the means of production. Workers confront the owners of capital and their servants on a daily basis at the point of production. This grounds the class interests of workers in a clear confrontation with capital.

Unemployed youth, and indeed the unemployed in general, do not face the same immediate contradiction. This is why they are a less reliable class force than workers. At times unemployed youth can be mobilised around a political platform that is populist rather than proletarian. Such mobilisation can be dangerous to the interests of workers. That is why as Numsa we follow the Communist Manifesto "the proletariat alone is a real revolutionary class". We can win the unemployed youth to our socialist struggle, but they need the leadership of the organised working class.

2. Class politics in theory

The political posture of the EFF, as it is written in the organisation's declaration and manifesto, is very similar to that of Numsa. It describes itself as drawing "inspiration from the broad Marxist- Leninist tradition and Fanonian schools of thought in their analyses of the state, imperialism, culture and class contradictions in every society". ‘Fanonian' refers to Frantz Fanon, an anti-imperialist and Marxist whose work was influential in Black Consciousness. EFF also says it is inspired by the Cuban July 26 Movement which led the Cuban revolution.

EFF supports:

  • Expropriation of South Africa's land without compensation for equal redistribution in use.
  • Nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation.
  • Building state and government capacity, which will lead to the abolishment of tenders.
  • Free quality education, healthcare, houses, and sanitation.
  • Massive protected industrial development to create millions of sustainable jobs, including the introduction of minimum wages in order to close the wage gap between the rich and the poor, close the apartheid wage gap and promote rapid career paths for Africans in the workplace.
  • Massive development of the African economy and advocating for a move from reconciliation to justice in the entire continent.
  • Open, accountable, corrupt-free government and society without fear of victimisation by state agencies.

There are two key gaps, from a working class perspective, in the positions of EFF:

EFF supports nationalisation but has never indicated any support for that nationalisation to take place under workers' control. In fact it has indicated recently that it might include, at least temporarily, the state taking majority shareholdings. We know that nationalisation by itself is not necessarily in the interests of the working class.

  • One example is Argentina in the 1940s: nationalisation of the railways as well as foreign-owned gas, electricity and communication companies was an example of populist nationalism (called Peronism) not socialism. Trade unions were tightly controlled and the regime was repressive
  • Another example is Britain, also in the 1940s: the nationalisation of the British steel industry was carried out in order to enable capitalist manufacturing to flourish, not to empower the working class.

So, whilst Numsa's position is a clear class position, the position of the EFF is not.

The EFF is explicitly anti-capitalist, but it is not socialist. In the 22 page EFF manifesto, whilst there is a commitment to anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, the word ‘socialism' does not appear at all. So the organisation is committed to a struggle against capitalism, but it does not clarify what kind of society it is struggling for.

3. Track Record

During its brief existence it has supported working class communities and workers in the mining industry and taken clear positions against e-tolls and labour brokers. However, given how young the organisation is, it is also necessary to look at the actions of its leaders before its formation.

The most disturbing issue, for us as a working class organisation, is that the President and Commander and Chief of EFF has been a Director of companies which do work for government on the basis of tenders. This is relevant since it is EFF policy to rebuild the capacity of the state and thus do away with ‘tenderpreneurs'. When asked about alleged payment for tenders in Limpopo, the EFF President said "There is no money that came to me or any of my entities." Court cases are still pending on whether Malema committed any illegal acts, but 2 things are clear:

The EFF President accepts that he is a businessman when he talks of "my entities". He has at one time or another been a Director of the following companies:

  • SGL Engineering Projects,
  • 101 Junjus Trading,
  • Blue Nightingale Trading 61 o Ever Roaring Investments. o Ngkape Mining Investments

So, whatever his class position now, the Commander and Chief has recently been a capitalist.

The Report of the Public Protector makes a clear finding that, on the question of tenders between the Limpopo Department of Roads and Transport and On-Point Engineering:

  • The EFF President's family trust, the Ratanang Family Trust, owned 50% of On-Point Engineering
  • Ratanang "benefited improperly from the unlawful, fraudulent and corrupt conduct of On-Point and maladministration of the Department".

4. Democracy

The democratic practice of EFF has not yet been seriously tested, so In order to make an assessment, we can look at two aspects of the organisation:

A. Its Constitution

B. The practice of its leadership before the formation of the EFF

A. Constitution

The EFF Constitution says that "The organizational principle of the EFF is democratic centralism." In principle this involves open and democratic debate until an organisation has decided an issue, followed by unity in action around the majority decision. Democratic centralism through history has taken different forms. The main variable has been the extent and nature of the democracy that is permitted and encouraged before the organisation makes its decisions.

A key issue is whether or not members are permitted to caucus around their positions during the discussion phase. In the Bolshevik party before 1921, these caucuses were allowed. They were banned in 1921, leading to a more centralised, commandist version of democratic centralism.

The EFF appears, from its constitution, to belong to the later version of democratic centralism. Here are some examples:

The whole organization must observe unified discipline: The guiding principle is that at all times the individual is subordinate to the organization, the minority is subordinate to the majority, the lower level is subordinate to the higher level, and the entire EFF is subordinate to the CCT.

Discipline for anyone who "absents her/himself from any meeting, gathering, conference, workshop or any other event, being so required to attend by the CCT or any branch or other component structure of the EFF"

One of the duties of a member is: "To observe and resort to the Policies, Resolutions, Decisions of the Central Command Team and the Rules and Regulations of the EFF."

"The National People's Assembly elects the CCT which develops the political line and policy to meet the challenges of leading the revolutionary struggle."

Although there are clauses which state encouragement of internal debate, structurally it looks like a Command structure and it uses military language for its positions (Commander in Chief) and its structures (Central Command Team).

The central command team comprises the Commander in Chief, the GS, 18 national Commissars, 2 Office Bearers from each Provincial Command Team, plus a representative from each Provincial Women's command and youth command. The presence of 20 national officials on this team reinforces the impression of a very centralised structure.

B. Leadership Practice

Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, key founding leaders of the EFF, were leaders of the ANC Youth League. Although no conclusive evidence is available, their leadership was plagued by allegations of undemocratic practices in relation to elections in the organisation, and silencing of opponents.

Issued by NUMSA, December 21 2013

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