SACP message, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) delivered by SACP General Secretary, Cde Blade Nzimande, December 4 2010
On behalf of the Central Committee, and the now 115 000 members of the SACP, I bring revolutionary greetings to this important gathering, marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of COSATU, our dependable ally and the largest progressive trade union federation in our country.
We are proud of being part of this celebration, mainly because, without the organized muscle of COSATU, we would not have realized our 1994 democratic breakthrough only 9 years after the formation of this giant organization.
We are also proud to be here today since the SACP, through its underground machinery, was very instrumental in forging the unity of a variety of progressive trade unions and other smaller federations to contribute towards the formation of COSATU.
For the SACP, the formation of COSATU, as a federation aligned to the congress movement and our SACP, was a culmination of the more than six decades of work and struggle by South African communists to build a progressive, socialist oriented trade union federation.
We must indeed acknowledge and celebrate the role played by a variety of unionists who came from different backgrounds and traditions in the building of COSATU. These included unionists from the former SACTU, a new generation of black unionists who came from the ranks of the fledgling trade union movement especially after the 1973 strikes, a generation of white union activists many of whom had cut their teeth in NUSAS as well as from progressive academia, the ANC and SACP, and those coming from a tradition of general workers' unions. We today salute all of them for their sacrifices and struggles to build this giant federation.
The formation of COSATU was indeed no easy achievement, as it was formed and built in the heat of the struggles against the apartheid regime, against the backdrop of decades of suppression of trade unions for black workers, accompanied by a variety of attempts by the apartheid regime and the bosses to form black sweetheart unions like TUCSA, preceded by toothless collaborationist institutions like the notorious Workers Councils and Liaison Committees.
Because of the intensity of the oppression of the apartheid regime, there emerged a tendency within the trade union movement to want to restrict progressive trade unions only to shop-floor struggles. Whilst it was understandable that some of these attempts were genuinely aimed at shielding the fledgling progressive trade union movement from outright apartheid repression, this also led to the development of a syndicalist tendency, which we referred to as a workerist tendency that sought to separate genuine shop-floor struggles of the workers from the broader national liberation struggles.
In particular, workerism sought to separate organised workers from the broader popular struggles led internally at the time by the United Democratic Front (UDF), as well as distance the progressive labour movement from ANC and the SACP. COSATU understood that while worker shop floor struggles were and continue to be important, but that those were inseparable from the broader national liberation struggles.
It was the consolidation of this Congress perspective within COSATU that we are also celebrating today. It was this perspective that also ensured that the struggles of the working class became central in the ultimate defeat of the apartheid regime. However, one lesson out of this is also that we must at all times guard against workerist tendencies within the trade union movement, today and going forward, as workers' struggles are inseparable from the struggle to reconstruct and develop our country.
Much more importantly, the celebration of COSATU's 25th anniversary is the celebration of the victory of our alliance over the apartheid regime, as well as continued proof of the necessity of our alliance in the struggle for jobs, access to affordable health and education, in the fight against crime and corruption, and in the struggle for rural development.
The necessity and continued relevance of the relationship between the SACP and COSATU
We have waged all these struggles and notched important victories as the SACP and COSATU on the terrain of a vicious and increasingly exploitative capitalist system. Whilst these victories have rolled back some of the worst of the capitalist and neo-liberal offensive, like the attempted privatization of state owned enterprises in the late 1990s in our country, the capitalist system continues to be the single biggest enemy to the interests of the workers and the poor of our country.
Prior to 2007 we have had to endure 10 years of government's neo-liberal economic policies that led to one of the biggest job loss bloodbath in the history of our country. It was the joint struggles of the SACP and COSATU, working together with progressive forces inside the ANC, that led to the defeat of this neo-liberal offensive and the election of a worker friendly ANC leadership, under the leadership of Cde Jacob Zuma.
We must make it absolutely clear today that without the critical relationship between the SACP and COSATU, the ANC itself would not have been liberated from attempts to transform the ANC into a narrow electoralist and neo-liberal political party. The Polokwane Conference was an ANC victory just as it was a victory for the SACP and COSATU!
However, the working class in this country still faces another threat from a small tendency within our liberation movement that is trying to turn our movement into an instrument for narrow, selfish, and often corrupt, interests. This new tendency, which has been severely weakened during and since the ANC NGC in September this year, still has to be thoroughly defeated.
It is only through the unity of the SACP, COSATU, and the broader progressive membership and support base of the ANC, that this new tendency will ultimately be defeated. That is why working class mobilization and leadership of the national democratic revolution remains absolutely essential, and the SACP and COSATU are absolutely critical.
The SACP has outlined the current challenge going forward through its Medium Term Vision. The Medium Term Vision seeks to wage a struggle to build working class influence in six key areas of our society: The state, the economy, the work place, the community, ideologically and internationalist solidarity work.
The SACP believes that there is no contradiction in building working class influence in all these six key areas simultaneously. In fact for the working class to abandon any one of these spaces would seriously roll back the advance of working class struggles.
The SACP 2011 Programme of action
In pursuance of the struggle to deepen the national democratic revolution as our direct route to socialism our recent Central Committee adopted the following programme of action for 2011.
Firstly we are going to intensify the struggle for the transformation of both the public and private financial sectors. We are calling for NEDLAC to convene a national financial sector summit, to evaluate progress made by banks and insurance companies and for DFIs to tell us how they are going to finance job creation.
Secondly, our 2011 PoA aims to consolidate and advance our relationship with the progressive labour movement, principally COSATU as part of deepening our struggle for socialism. We would also like to work with COSATU to further exploit the new, progressive thinking as opened up by government's proposed new growth path.
Whilst we are still going to discuss the details of government's new growth path, the SACP however welcomes the broad intentions of these proposals as marking a radical shift in government thinking about how to transform our economy. The new growth path seeks to place jobs, manufacturing and other productive activities, linking macro and micro economic policies as its priorities. These are amongst some of the major calls that both the SACP and COSATU have been making over the past 16 years.
Thirdly the SACP will mobilise its 115 000 members in its party structures to secure an overwhelming ANC victory in the coming local government elections. We are however going to raise with the ANC forthrightly the kind of councilor candidates we would like to see, and will strenuously oppose all candidates that are lazy, ineffective and are not wanted by communities. We welcome the ANC's commitment that communities will have some say of over who it wants as councilors. The SACP will also start engaging communities about the kinds of councilors we want.
The relationship between the SACP and COSATU
For all the above reasons and others it is absolutely essential that we protect and deepen the special relationship and bond between the SACP and COSATU. It is a relationship that is of fundamental importance in our struggle for socialism in our country. It is a relationship we must not take for granted but continuously and consciously cultivate it. It must be a relationship based on taking up common struggles on the ground! It is a relationship, within the context of our broader alliance, that has made an enormous impact in the direction our country is taking today! It is an essential relationship for the future of our country, and for the workers and the poor of our land!
As part of our PoA for 2011 the SACP will also support COSATU's living wage campaign and also raise the necessity for an increase in the social wage for the working class, including a decent housing subsidy, affordable public transport and the acceleration of the introduction of a national health insurance scheme. We also call upon COSATU to intensify its support for our Red October Campaign, especially by concretely taking up the issue of where and how workers' retirement funds are invested. Whilst ensuring that these funds do make returns, but they must not be used to enrich a small elite at the expense of investing in the productive economy and to create jobs.
Most importantly we commit to continue with joint political classes between the SACP and all the affiliates of COSATU.
Today we call for the deepening of the SACP-COSATU relations as part of building an even stronger Tripartite Alliance!
On this occasion we also commit to continue to build and consolidate internationalist solidarity with communist and workers' parties all over the world. We also vow to strengthen solidarity work with the Cuban revolution, and once more call for the release of the Cuban Five in the US.
In fact this December 2010 is actually a red December in our country! Starting yesterday we are hosting for the first time as a country and continent the first ever meeting of communist and workers parties from all over the world to share experiences and strategies in our fight for a socialist world.
Today we are celebrating COSATU's 25th anniversary. Next week our Young Communist League is holding it 3rd National Congress, followed by the festival of anti-imperialist youth from all over the world, under the leadership of WFDY. No wonder all this has escaped our bourgeois and capitalist media, as they do not like the fact that our alliance and South Africa are regarded as an ally by all anti-imperialist progressive forces in the world.
Let us remember the words of our late General Secretary, Chris Hani, that for as long as capitalism exists there will always be a case for socialism!
Long live COSATU, long live!
Issued by the SACP, December 4 2010
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