Show Us What You’ve Got!
Bob Archer replies on behalf of WIRFI to The Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party: A major distraction, by John Appolis.
(available in pamphlet form)
The forthcoming Launch Congress of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party in South Africa throws down a significant challenge to intellectual Marxists.
Here is an embryo party which assembled over 1,000 activists in a pre-launch congress in December 2018, proclaims that its aim is to lead the fight of the working class against the bourgeoisie and their political allies, and proudly inscribes on its banner adherence to the revolutionary thought of Marx and Lenin.
To show they mean what they say, the forces in the leadership of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which initiated this work, have spent 5 years systematically preparing the ground to launch this party.
It was the state-sponsored murder of striking miners at Marikana in July 2012 which dramatically laid bare the reality of society and politics in post-apartheid South Africa. Up to that point the alliance of South African Communist Party (SACP), African National Congress (ANC) and Confederation of South African Trades Unions (Cosatu) had justified and dominated a liberation (in the early 1990s) which has worked less and less for the benefit of the South African masses and more and more in the interests of a small group of black bourgeois and global capital. Continue reading
What Numsa decided in December 2013
The Numsa Congress declaration explained: “The African National Congress (ANC) has adopted a strategic programme – the National Development Plan (NDP). The fault of the NDP is not that it is technically flawed, or in need of adjustment and editing … Its fault is that it is the programme of our class enemy. It is a programme to continue to feed profit at the expense of the working class and poor.”(My emphasis – RA)
It goes on to state: “The ANC leadership has clarified that it will not tolerate any challenge” and “Cosatu (the Confederation of South African Trade Unions) has experienced a vicious and sustained attack on its militancy and independence … Cosatu has become consumed by internal battles by forces which continue to support the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) with its neo-liberal agenda and those who are fighting for an independent militant federation which stands for the interests of the working class before any other”. Continue reading
A reply to Martin Jensen: The Numsa Moment – Has it lost Momentum?
By Bob Archer, Jan 2017
Since the end of Apartheid in the early 1990s, South Africa has officially been ruled by a Triple Alliance of the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP) and Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). At its Special National Congress in December 2013, the South African metalworkers’ union, Numsa, called for an historic break with the Alliance and adopted a series of initiatives. What they proposed – and how these initiatives have fared ̶ deserves serious and sustained discussion, not just in South Africa and the region, but right around the world. To that extent, Comrade Jensen’s article raises important questions which deserve a response. Continue reading
Zwelinzima Vavi, the General Secretary of COSATU and himself an SACP member, got into a public argument with SACP Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Cronin last November over contentious issues in the Alliance that rules South Africa.
This bare fact alone shows how utterly fundamental the political crisis in South Africa is.
A lengthy reply by Vavi to Cronin dated December 17, 2014 is available online at:
The basic division in the political crisis is between the working class and wider layers of working people on the one hand and the bourgeoisie and its representatives in the Alliance on the other. That was made very clear when armed police opened fire on striking rock-drillers at Marikana on 16 August 2012 and in the way political forces have lined up subsequently. It is therefore very hard to understand why in his reply Vavi makes no reference of any kind at all to the events at Marikana. The silence on this issue robs his remarks of meaning in a certain sense. It belies the very reality he attempts to portray at considerable length in the letter.
The crisis in South Africa involves the unravelling of the National Democratic Revolution’s meretricious promises. It is a crisis which involves workers driven to mobilise against the Alliance government in order to defend their class interests, but also one which works right through every element in the alliance, COSATU, SACP and ANC.
It is a crisis in which the developing leadership of the working class lies in the hands of the NUMSA officeholders, who correctly take the fight through all parts of the Alliance, while at the same time building their movement in a very open way in the United Front and among their international contacts. Their insistence upon their right to belong to COSATU and fight within the federation testifies to their understanding of their responsibilities towards their class and the masses in general. Big, indeed historical, political issues are at stake. They cannot be resolved by walking away from this fight or displacing it elsewhere. Continue reading
Commemorating the 20th
anniversary of the death of Joe Slovo, South African Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande evoked Slovo’s memory (“… a living embodiment of our Alliance!”) on January 6th
this year as a stick to beat political opponents in the working class movement, whom he accused of wanting “to become media heroes through unprincipled attacks on the ANC”.
“The good example set by Slovo epitomises the importance of unity in the struggle for liberation, the unity of our Alliance; the unity of our broad movement; the unity of the working class; the broad unity of our people!”
(To what extent this Alliance is really “united” is described in detail in other articles in this dossier.)
Nzimande quoted from Slovo’s “seminal work” The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution:
“The classes and strata which come together in a front of struggle usually have different long-term interests and, often, even contradictory expectations from the immediate phase. The search for agreement usually leads to a minimum platform which excludes some of the positons of the participating classes or strata.”
(We also look in detail in another article at the way the leaders of the “Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917” saw the active and leading role of the working class in revolutions in which other oppressed labouring classes were involved, and indeed how their views on this really developed alongside their growing understanding of what was then the early decades of imperialism.) Continue reading
A fresh wind really has started to blow from South Africa, where the leadership of the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) has responded positively to the growing resistance of the masses against the African National Congress (ANC) regime and the situation following the massacre of platinum miners at Marikana in 2012.
NUMSA proposes to:
(1) Break the trade unions away from the ruling alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) because that alliance has been “captured by hostile forces”
(2) Commission an international study of the history of previous attempts to establish working class political parties in different parts of the world in order to prepare to form one which can defend the interests of working people today
(3) Establish a united front of struggle with all who are suffering and resisting under the present pro-imperialist government.
In a few short months since taking these decisions, NUMSA has successfully organised political schools for its militant activists and also held an international seminar attended by a range of left-wing political and trade union activists from different parts of the world. More recently they have managed to achieve united-front actions to defend manufacturing jobs and employment in the country and made great progress towards organising an actual united front as an instrument to take forward the struggle of the broad masses of South Africans. Continue reading
The seven unions (FAWU, SACCAWU, PAWUSA, SASAWU, CWU, NENOSA and SAFPU) plus NUMSA convened a joint meeting of shop stewards and members attended by 2,200 participants at the City Hall on Sunday morning 16 November 2014 to report on the crisis ravaging COSATU.
The mass meeting was addressed by the General Secretaries of FAWU and CWU, respectively Katishi Masemola and Aubrey Tshabalala, before a keynote address by the President of NUMSA, Andrew Chirwa.
Katishi Masemola indicated that there cannot be a united COSATU without NUMSA and there cannot be unity without others and that a united COSATU is a first prize and the only prize hoping that the basis for such a united federation will be the implementation of the 2013 COSATU National Congress Resolutions.
Katishi reflected that challenges in the federation, with NUMSA expelled, means that the working class will be the loser and those gaining will be Capital as it intensifies “class terror” (super-exploitation, be it through youth wage subsidy and labour broking or other ways) and the State as it aggressively pursues neoliberal policy trajectory, with National Development Plan (NDP) as its apex, all against the workers, the poor and entire working class. Continue reading
Statement by Workers International
On 8 November, 33 out of 57 office bearers of the South African trade union federation COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) voted to expel the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) from their federation.
NUMSA is the biggest, among the most militant, and certainly the most socialist-minded of the South African trade unions. It was a founder union of COSATU.
The decision to expel was taken by a bare 58% of the federation office bearers, because those who had determined to get rid of NUMSA could not be sure that they would win the expulsion vote at a national Congress of all COSATU members.
NUMSA’s expulsion was the latest act in a long saga of a developing and increasingly stark division in the South African trade union leaderships, which has now resulted in this very visible split.
The breaking point was 12 August 2012, when the South African police force shot down 34 striking miners at Marikana. Their crime was to refuse to sell their labour for less than a living wage. Continue reading
In this issue:
Reinstate NUMSA in COSATU
‘Dig Deep for DITA’ interview and appeal
WRP Election Manifesto
Beefing up the Bonapartism.