Back to basics, fight exploitation, dismantle parasitic networks, push a second radical phase of our revolution and build the basis for advancing to socialism
18 September 2018
Workers of the world unite!
This, the 13th National Congress of COSATU coincides with a very difficult economic and social period in our country. South Africa is technically in a recession. The economy has not been performing well. State revenue is under severe pressure and the debt levels are high, including unacceptable levels of individual indebtedness. Class inequalities, unemployment and poverty levels remain high. Social insecurity has been entrenched.
Violence, including gender-based violence, is persistent and there seems to be no end in sight. Crime and murder rates have increased. The promising future of young people is ravaged by drugs and human trafficking, affecting mainly young men and young women. Significant sections of some of our cities have been taken over by swathes of unemployed drug-taking youth (amaphara). State owned entities have been plunged into crisis because of governance and administrative decay, especially because of corruption and looting. All these and other challenges facing our nation, must be looked at in their historical context, but must be dealt with decisively and holistically.
One of the most serious challenges facing our country that is deeply interlinked to the challenges just outlined is that of social disintegration in many of our communities. Social cohesion is under huge strain. The many protests that we see in our communities and educational institutions are increasingly characterised by destruction of public property. As a significant component of the organised working class we need to seriously reflect on whether disciplined and coherent working class leadership in our communities and other social institutions has not been replaced by too many incidents of ill-discipline and destruction, thus posing a serious threat to our revolution.
These developments do not exist in isolation from the continuing ravages of capitalism that are eating into the very fabric of society and our communities. There is a very deep interrelationship between what is happening in the workplace and in our communities.
The SACP is looking forward to your resolutions in this regard and on other important issues. These include the shift that has been occurring at the workplace from permanent employment relationships with relatively better pay and benefits to low paying, casualised and temporarised employment relationships with no benefits. In July the Constitutional Court made an important ruling on labour brokering. It confirmed the correct interpretation of the 2014 Labour Relations Act amendments making a client of a labour broker the sole employer of an affected employee after three months of his or her temporary employment service period in the event the work continues. The question remains on whether this ruling is being respected by employers.
The labour broker, Assign Services had the audacity to challenge this correct interpretation. It initiated the case through a referral to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in 2015 following the amendments. After losing, the labour broker referred the CCMA award to the Labour Court for review. It appealed each time after losing the case until the Constitutional Court. This was an effort NOT merely of one modern slave master. It was for the benefit of all labour brokers. The labour movement as a whole must rally behind the Constitutional Court judgment and ensure that all employers comply with it. The struggle to deal with labour brokering is however not over.
The SACP supports a further reduction of the temporary employment service period to zero months, thus completely abolishing the problematic jointly and severally liable or dual employer relationship involving a labour broker. The struggle to abolish the labour brokering practice must continue and be intensified. COSATU must not make the mistake of only letting government and the laws to fight this struggle. Laws and policies can be changed by government, but not implemented by employers!
The labour movement has the support of the SACP in this and other struggles based on the common interests of the workers. We want to make use of this opportunity to express our support to COSATU and for the wider unity of the labour movement. If the labour movement is not ready, for now, to unite under a single umbrella federation and industrial and public service unions, at least it must unite programmatically behind the common interests of the workers. To this end the SACP will step up its labour movement unification efforts through encouraging and supporting joint actions and campaigns by various progressive trade unions.
There is nothing in principle that should be allowed to stand in the way of the labour movement working together to win common demands and goals. These include the abolition of labour broking, the transformation of the financial sector; the development of an overarching social security system; driving more investments into the productive economy; and building working class power in the workplace in particular and the economy in general.
The SACP fully supports COSATU’s commitment to wage the ‘back to basics’ campaign. We will do all we can to be part of this effort as part of playing our own vanguard role as the SACP.
A new era is also emerging, the so-called fourth industrial revolution; industry 4.0; or the second machine age as others call it. The labour movement has to consistently study the changes that occur in work methods and production organisation, including technological changes and product development, and the impact these already have and are likely to have on the future of work. Dedicated departments may become necessary in all trade union organisations to look at these and other labour process changes, their impact and new opportunities. The labour movement requires coherent and well-co-ordinated responses to the deepening technological revolution not only on industrial and national bases but also internationally. This approach is required on the broader economic and political struggle internationally.
For instance how do we explain the utterances, behaviour and actions of the United States president? These include his utterly ignorant and actually racist tweet he made recently against the necessity for land reform in South Africa, his neo-fascist tendencies, his ultra-right-wing populism and the opportunism that goes hand in hand with it, his recklessness and intensification of the imperialist agenda of unilateralism. What must be the response of the working class both in South Africa and internationally?
Donald Trump is obviously the persisting capitalist crisis and its consequent bourgeois frustrations personified. As we all know, the crisis first broke out in the country he was to later emerge as the president without popular electoral support. He is the chief representative of the most backward strata of the United States-based capitalist ruling class. This is the time for the working class both in South Africa and internationally to build and deepen unity and cohesion.
The proletarian movement as a whole needs to give practical expression to this sustainable way forward. This requires joint labour movement and political action both within and across borders. We need to step up proletarian solidarity and internationalism. The working class is not faced here merely with the utterances, behaviour and actions of a desperate person. At the centre of the problem is the crisis-ridden system of capitalist exploitation and imperialism. This is why as the SACP say: Socialism is the future, build it now!
All of these and the other tasks that the progressive trade union movement is faced with require the building of strong industrial and public service unions, and an intensified focus on quality service to members and organising the unorganised.
We welcome the positive developments and determination to tackle many of these challenges, including government’s commitment to fight corporate capture of the state. The working class needs to mobilise in support of these measures.
Dismantle corporate capture and combat parasitic networks
The SACP fully supports the work of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The Commission must conclude the work in time and save South Africa the scarce monetary resources that it needs to advance democratic transformation and development. We are saying this bearing in mind the importance of the Commission itself to this course. The Commission must assist us through its findings and recommendations to deal with both the rot that has occurred and put in place appropriate legislative and other measures to tackle private and corporate state capture.
While as the SACP we were the first to call for the Commission, it is a fact that all Alliance partners welcomed its establishment. This was in response to “The State of Capture” report produced by the former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela after conducting her investigation into this problem of corruption.
Those who are still throwing up their hands in horror within the ranks of our movement, pretending that corporate capture does not exist, should be reminded of the Alliance Summit Declaration adopted by all Alliance partners on 1 July 2015. The Summit took place over five days from 27 June 2015. This was in response to a request, first made by former President Jacob Zuma, then the President, for sufficient time to consider all matters that required attention. This is what the declaration of the Summit says:
“Discussions in the Summit focused considerably on a range of internal weaknesses, difficulties and challenges found across all our formations. These include:
“A growing social distance between leadership and our mass constituency, including
- “a disconnect between the focus of branch activities and the social and economic realities of communities
- “crass displays of wealth and arrogance.
“These problems reinforce and are connected to the deliberate manipulation and subversion of internal democratic processes through the manipulation of membership through gate-keeping and the use of money to advance individual ambitions and factions based on patronage and nepotism. This behaviour is also the entry-point for corporate capture and private business interests outside of our formations to undermine organisational processes.
“The Summit resolved that these deviations must be dealt with firmly and without fear or favour.”
The Summit further attributed the governance decay that had plunged the SABC into crisis to, inter alia, corporate capture. This is what the declaration says on this score:
“The Summit expressed deep concern at the erosion of the SABC’s ability to fulfil its public mandate. This is caused by inadequate public funding, private corporate capture and the virtual monopoly of pay-TV by a single company. Linked to this has been the sale of the SABC Archive to MultiChoice and thus the privatisation of what should be our shared national heritage. A further consequence is that public access to live parliamentary debates and continuous news coverage is limited to those who can afford pay-TV.”
It is important to attach great importance to revolutionary discipline in our struggle to dismantle corporate capture and combat parasitic networks. This requires all members to uphold the centrality of collective decisions. A revolutionary cadre is a disciplined cadre who subordinates his or her private interests to those of the movement and the people as a whole – rather than the other way around.
We would also like to take this opportunity to clarify the issue of the state and revolution. Our state is based on our territorial integrity, population, national sovereignty and the rule of law. It is made up of many institutions over and above parliament, the executive and the judiciary. It is a fact that there are many state institutions that are not part of the three basic branches. In addition, we have state owned entities, financial institutions and different spheres of government all exercising state power.
All in all there are warm bodies in the state who are assigned specific responsibilities as a function of division of work. When one of them or when one authority of the state, or any of its duties or functions has been usurped by private or corporate interests, we must confront and uproot the capture. We must not wait for the corruption to annex the state in its entirety before recognising that the problem of private or corporate capture exists.
Our struggle is a struggle for liberation and complete social emancipation. It was never started with the mischievous aim of handing over state power to corrupt interests and private profiteers. Our struggle was started to overthrow colonial, apartheid and imperialist domination. These forms of oppression arose from the class rule of the capitalist class over the working class and its worldwide expansion.
There can be no doubt that in our case where the state arouse from class contradictions it was created as an instrument of the rule of the oppressor class over the oppressed class. In contradiction, our struggle was started to win state power democratically, transform and transfer it to the people as a whole, the majority of whom is the working class. It is actually treasonous to hand over our hard-won democratic power to, or use it to the benefit of corrupt and private profiteer interests.
Those who are arguing that we must allow the decay to take root because it long occurred under colonialism and apartheid must be told, and in no uncertain terms, that we did not wage our struggle in order to perpetuate the corruption of the colonial system and the apartheid regime. This is why we call ours a national democratic revolution and the struggle for socialism. Our main objective is to uproot corruption, economic exploitation, class inequalities and social insecurity. We did not fight in order to go back. We waged the struggle in order to move forward!
Tackle the nasty fight-back decisively!
Coming out of our May 2018 Central Committee, the SACP warned against what we saw as an emerging fight-back campaign to undermine the fight against corporate capture of the capture and corruption in general. We even pointed out where this fight could possibly be emanating from. As the SACP we are therefore not surprised at all about political plots as we had already warned against these.
This fight-back campaign has also been accompanied by some of the most regressive and reactionary tendencies that should not be allowed to find space in our movement, like tribalism, black chauvinism and racist slurs. One of the most dangerous components of this fight-back is that it is carried out under the pretext of advancing “radical economic transformation”. This false version of radical economic transformation is synonymous with a campaign to defend the parasitic capturers and those complicit in their corrupt deeds. As the SACP and as the working class as a whole we must refuse to be intimidated on these matters.
This fight-back campaign is essentially not only directed at President Ramaphosa or an ANC trying to renew and cleanse itself. It is in essence an attack on the working class, the poor and all South Africans who would like to see progress, and see our movement coming out of its recent dark period. Defeating this reactionary fight-back is an essential part of defending the gains of the first phase of the national democratic revolution. Some of these gains include a progressive constitution, progressive labour laws, a new legal framework for gender equality, as well as our democratic institutions. Corporate state capture is a direct threat to the consolidation of these gains. It is therefore important that we isolate all those fighting back through a broader mobilisation of all patriotic South Africans beyond our movement and the working class. The SACP has expressed its full support for all those who are standing up to corporate state capture, sometimes at personal risk. We reiterate our commitment to remain a steadfast ally in the struggle against the looters and their bedfellows.
Allegations have recently surfaced of a plot to topple the President. The SACP has noted statements from within the ANC that there was a clarification given on the allegations. This cannot end there. The Alliance as a whole must look at this matter and also satisfy itself that such actions are exposed and defeated. This is not a mere ANC internal affair. It is a threat to the national democratic revolution and the unity and cohesion of our Alliance and movement as a whole. This matter must be on the agenda of the next Alliance Political Council.
However, it is important to bear in mind that the fight-back campaign can only be defeated through mass mobilisation and activism on the ground. This is one important fronts of mobilisation to be undertaken by the organised working class and our communities.
State power, alliance reconfiguration and the role of the working class
Our SACP 14th Congress in July 2017 adopted a clear-cut resolution on the Party and state and popular power. We summed up our post-1994 experiences, both negative and positive. We looked at the way in which our Alliance is configured. We assessed whether the policy perspectives and resolutions of all Alliance partners, rather than those of the ANC alone, find expression in government policy direction at all levels. We further examined the electoral strategy of the Alliance, its overall relationship to state power and the manner in which it has been exercised. This includes policy-making, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and accountability, deployments, including recall.
It is undeniable that there have been many problems leading to the strategic importance of the Alliance being undermined. The rebounding in recent years of the tendency to marginalise the Alliance worsened the situation. It is a fact that corporate capture succeeded to take the centre stage and relegate the Alliance to the periphery. This is the context in which the lack or absence of consultation eventually took root. The Cabinet reshuffle of March 2017 exposed the decay for all to see. The leaders of all Alliance partners had to come out. They denounced the decision by open public statements. They made it very clear for all to know that there was no consultation, and that the decision was probably made elsewhere for rubber-stamping by the movement and therefore cheerleading.
As Alliance partners, we all fought to achieve democracy in our country. We have since been campaigning together to win elections on a single Alliance electoral campaign headed by the ANC. However, we cannot say the same when coming to state power and its exercise. The Alliance, viewed holistically with all levels taken into account, is virtually excluded from many governance processes. There is no direct Alliance participation and the Alliance is not involved in making decisions in so far as those processes are concerned. It is a fact that from a mandate point of view reference is made only to the perspectives of one Alliance partner, rather than the Alliance as a whole. This regressive path must be stopped.
We therefore resolved as the SACP that the Alliance must be reconfigured, if going forward it is to be able to hold together the motive forces of our revolution. As part and parcel of the reconfiguration, we must deal a heavy blow to the networks of factional and parasitic interests and corporate capture. If the Alliance was adequately configured in keeping with the new – that is the post-1994 realities of state power and related governance processes, corporate capture and other forms of corruption would have been nipped in the bud. Our state owned enterprises would not have been plunged into crisis. We would have succeeded to hold accountable, as the Alliance, those within our ranks who were either driving or complicit in the rot.
A reconfigured Alliance has collective policy coherence and functions fundamentally differently from just being a mere elections campaigning machinery. A reconfigured Alliance is a truly governing and campaigning Alliance in a democratic context where state power as well as its exercise and related governance processes have become an important pillar for advancing, deepening and defending the shared objectives of our revolution. It must be an Alliance rooted amongst the mass of our people and daily taking up, through mass campaigns, issues that face ordinary people. In short, a reconfigured Alliance is a National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance rather than an electioneering coalition.
A reconfigured alliance is an alliance that works together to set the policy agenda for transformation and development. It is an Alliance that works together to train, select and deploy, on its behalf, those who should be charged with the responsibility to implement this national democratic revolutionary agenda. A reconfigured Alliance is therefore an Alliance that works together not only in words but also in practice to take all major policy, deployment and accountability decisions and to implement those decisions. It is an Alliance that acts decisively in recalling those who are underperforming, become corrupt or captured by private or corporate interests. A reconfigured Alliance cannot wait until irreparable harm has occurred in order to act.
The reconfiguration of the Alliance must happen at all levels, including at the local, at the branch level!
We call upon this Congress to support our stance of a reconfigured alliance and the building of a broad popular left front as the only way forward to realise the goal of a second, more radical, phase of the national democratic action.
The SACP calls the working class to action!
The Freedom Charter remains centrally important as the basic programme of our national democratic revolution, and must find profound expression in the policy direction of a reconfigured Alliance. Its complete implementation must therefore underpin the main policy focus of the second radical phase of the revolution. The Freedom Charter remains the beacon in our day to day struggles.
We are not going to achieve any of our aforementioned goals or even the aims of the resolutions we adopt here, unless the working class undertakes extensive mobilisation, particularly at this stage of our revolution. The tasks that lie ahead require mass action and activism by the working class and the poor in order to change conditions for the better for the overwhelming majority of our people.
Our August Central Committee took a resolution to use our Red October Campaign to revitalise working class activism on a range of fronts and struggles. In fact COSATU itself cannot claim to be going back to basics unless this is accompanied by mass mobilisation! The first site of struggle around which we need to intensify mobilisation must be for the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHI). Big capital in the health industry has been waging a massive organisational, financial and ideological offensive against the NHI. Unfortunately, they have now reached out to sections of our progressive professionals to denounce the NHI on the false ground that it is unaffordable and will not benefit ordinary people. This is indeed a lie aimed at the perpetuation of a health system that is biased towards servicing the rich and the better off at the expense of the workers and poor. This is a struggle we must jointly take up, as well as a range of other progressive forces. It is the view of the SACP that in fact we need to build a front of organisations and institutions struggling for the realisation of the NHI.
The SACP has also decided to take up the many challenges and problems at local government level. This requires revolutionary and disciplined leadership in overcoming the problems. For instance, one of the most immediate problems at local government is that already identified by the 2015 Alliance Summit – the growing distance between the leadership and the people. There is a widespread failure to provide services to communities and our people as a result of corruption, lack of proper prioritisation of services to the people, and lack of skills. Often at the centre of all these problems is factionalism and money politics in our structures. The working class cannot continue complaining about these without doing anything about them. One specific mode of intervention must be strategies to link workplace and community struggles as these two key sites of struggle are deeply interrelated. Retrenchments throw workers into poverty and further inaccessibility to basic services.
Another big campaign that we are calling upon COSATU to take up in earnest is that of building an affordable, accessible, safe, reliable and integrated public transport system that properly services the working class. Working together with government, the organised trade union movement must up the stakes in its involvement in addressing all the problems facing our still fragmented public transport system. An important component and dimension in this regard is the need for COSATU and the Alliance as a whole to have an urgent and detailed discussion on how we fund and resource our public transport system. At the heart of this is also the question of addressing problems in commuter rail, the taxi industry and buses. In particular, we need to address the issue of how do we fund our national road network.
Tackling these issues will also assist us greatly in finally addressing the issue of e-tolls here in Gauteng Province. The SACP’s view is that the model of the e-toll system was flawed right from the beginning, from conception. However, the reality we face still remains how do we fund current commitments like the e-tolls, as well as funding our road network going forward? User Pay? Fuel Levy? As Minister, I am ready and have already agreed to engage COSATU on these and other matters immediately after your Congress.
The SACP also calls upon organised workers to play a role in the mobilisation of the motive forces for land and agrarian transformation, including urban land. A broad front of progressive forces needs to be built, including farm workers, urban dwellers, the rural poor and those who live on the land, as well as the middle classes and professionals who have a genuine interest in land transformation. Much as land restitution is important, however the SACP is of the view that much more energies must be spent on driving land redistribution. This will speed up access to productive land. The working class must also actively engage ideologically in the land debates also in order to counter reactionary views as well as cheap populist stances!
The SACP is prepared to work with COSATU in strengthening its affiliates with a particular focus on the weak industrial unions. This must also embrace supporting and strengthening public sector unions so that they are in the forefront of servicing our people.
Comrades, lack of political education still remains a major challenge. Two of the biggest enemies to political education are factionalists and gate keepers. Factionalists do not like an informed membership because they are unable to manipulate such members. It is a fact that factionalism, gate-keeping and lack of political understanding are the terrible triplets that can completely undermine our revolution. But political education is not only for fighting regressive tendencies. It is crucial for empowerment, cadre development and solidifying our revolution.
Issued by Alex Mohubetswane Mashilom, National Spokesperson & Head of Communications, SACP, 18 September 2018