Issue 6 of Die Werker out now.
Out now! The latest issue of Namibia’s Proletarian Newsletter.
In this edition:
NUMSA & United Front
Out now! The latest issue of Namibia’s Proletarian Newsletter.
In this edition:
NUMSA & United Front
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”.
Referring to the 2012 massacre of miners at Marikana, the declaration says: “the state attacked and killed workers on behalf of capital”. It goes on to outline a campaign to support the victims of the massacre and punish those responsible, situating the massacre in the context of imperialist exploitation: “Marikana was a deliberate defence of mining profits and mining capitalists!”.
The declaration notes: “The treatment of labour as a junior partner within the Alliance is not uniquely a South African phenomenon. In many post-colonial and post-revolutionary situations, liberation and revolutionary movements have turned on labour movements that fought alongside them, suppressed them, marginalised them, split them, robbed them of their independence or denied them any meaningful role in politics and policy making.”
The declaration summarises a political way forward: “There is no chance of winning back the Alliance or the SACP”; “The working class needs a political organisation”; “Call on COSATU to break with the Alliance!”; “Establish a new United Front”; “Explore establishment of a Movement for Socialism” (“NUMSA will conduct a thoroughgoing discussion on previous attempts to build socialism as well as current experiments to build socialism. We will commission an international study on the historical formation of working class parties, including exploring different types of parties – from mass workers’ parties to vanguard parties. We will look to countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and Greece … This entire process will lead to the union convening a Conference on Socialism”
The declaration says Numsa will “set a deadline for this process” and “look for electoral opportunities”. It lays down a number of steps cutting ties with the ANC and the SACP.
It goes on to propose a campaign over the rampant corruption of Jacob Zuma’s presidency, pointing out that this corruption goes hand in hand with “the continuation of neo-liberalism”.
A sizeable section of the declaration deals with the crisis within the union confederation Cosatu, outlining the questions of principle involved.
The declaration also re-positions Numsa as a trade union as “shield and spear of workers”, pointing to the need to confront the fragmentation of the workforce through outsourcing and seeking to organise all workers in given workplaces and along supply chains.
A final section outlines a practical campaign, including taking forward the “Section 77” campaign to reverse neo-liberal policies and “address the plight of the working class and poor”. Cosatu had adopted this campaign but failed to pursue it energetically. Numsa pledged to act against the Employment Tax Incentive Act, and organise a “rolling mass action” with a detailed list of concrete demands, for example: beneficiation of all strategic minerals, a ban on the export of scrap metals and the rebuilding of foundries, an increase on import tariffs on certain goods, nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, exchange controls and other demands culminating in the nationalisation of the mining industry.
(For the texts of the congress resolution and declaration plus material to place them in a historical context, see the Workers International pamphlet Movement for Socialism: South Africa’s NUMSA points the way, ISBN 978-0-9564319-4-3).
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.
The decisions of Numsa’s Special National Congress (summarised alongside this article in What Numsa decided) should be studied carefully by all who wish and hope to see a renewal and re-awakening of the workers’ and socialist movement internationally and are seriously considering what methods of political work this involves. Numsa’s initiative urgently requires critical thought about the habits and working methods of working-class and socialist activists, in the prosperous nations of the “West” as much as in Africa and elsewhere.
Martin Jensen hails the Numsa turn but is critical about how Numsa has selected its practical proposals and taken them forward. He also criticises those of us who welcomed and forthrightly promulgated these initiatives.
Workers’ International responded very positively to the Numsa Special National Congress and its decisions. No doubt Cde. Jensen includes us among those guilty of “impressionism”:
“While many socialists correctly supported Numsa’s important watershed political decisions and got directly involved in their realisation, they failed at the same time to recognise the historical and current weaknesses of the union and assist in overcoming them. A combination of impressionism and overzealousness saw many socialists jumping in without critically appreciating the challenges of the period and limitations of Numsa and its leadership”, he says.
What should Numsa have done? Cde. Jensen thinks above all that Numsa should have opened the door to collaboration with the dissident former youth wing of the ANC, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). He also criticises Numsa for failing to get involved in the widespread student unrest this year.
(Just a thought: One group of people identifies the Numsa turn as a politically and strategically essential break and decides to encourage that political development in every way possible, undeterred by difficulties and without setting themselves up to lecture the comrades involved about supposed shortcomings identified from outside. A second group compares the numbers whom the EEF can mobilise for a rally or demonstration with the numbers Numsa can turn out and sets aside the – quite important – question of the class nature of the forces involved in order to give priority to the EEF. Which group best deserves to be described as “impressionist”?)
Cde. Jensen has other criticisms of the action programme which Numsa developed in December 2013, describing it as “hardly the issues that could have captured the imagination and concerns of other workers” and taking Numsa to task for failing to co-ordinate a campaign for a living wage with Cosatu and above all for not timing strike action to coincide with AMCU, the break-away from the South African mineworkers’ union.
Cde. Jensen outlines an alternative set of actions saying: “The 6-phase rolling mass action should have been changed to ensure that issues more important to the working class, with a greater preparedness on their part to struggle around, such as for decent housing and service delivery, jobs for the unemployed, free quality education, etc.”
So Cde. Jensen proposes that Numsa’s carefully-planned campaign to organise and guide workers into becoming the backbone of a defence of their class interests (and of the common interests of the wider masses) should be liquidated into precisely the kind of demagogic generality which EEF practises.
The 1 September 2016 Numsa Press Release (reporting a well-attended meeting of the Steering Committee to form a new Trade Union Federation) soberly explains: “Our country is the headquarters of service delivery protests and sadly the media is no longer reporting these protests. They have been relegated to traffic reports when they disrupt motorists’ travel plans! Sadly despite the occurrence and breadth of these protests they remain fragmented and isolated to the shame of all of us on the left. This is a challenge we hope to address through the creation of the new federation”.
But instead of prioritising the strategic move to create a new federation, Cde. Jensen would prefer the Numsa leaders simply to tail end the demagogues of EEF. Impatiently he waves aside (and distorts) the careful and systematic re-construction of the unity of the workers’ movement which Numsa and its allies have been carrying out, complaining that:
“the Numsa leaders, its allies and former Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi … focused on confining the political battle to the Cosatu CEC, the mainstream media and the courts. It meant that the outset in 2011, the workers of the majority of unions in Cosatu were excluded from the important political battle, isolated and disempowered. As mere spectators they did not grow politically and lacked the confidence to challenge and replace their corrupt leaders. Numsa’s call for a united front and a ‘movement for socialism’ should therefore have fallen on fertile ground if serious and consistent leadership was offered”, Cde. Jensen continues, but: “Alas, this was not to be”.
“Our trade unions are still bureaucratic and conservative lifeless shells, not prepared to fight and participate in broader struggles of the working class”, Cde. Jensen asserts, throwing in for good measure “bureaucratisation… , union chauvinism and not connecting with other trade unions … conservative collective bargaining arrangements … participation in the capitalist economy through its investment company” and “the social distance of the union leadership from its members…”
And yet it is within and through this “bureaucratic and conservative lifeless shell” that working-class political life (and thought) has actually asserted itself!
Does Cde. Jensen have any real idea about how workers reach decisions and organise ̶ essentially, how the working class thinks collectively? The flip side of “union chauvinism” is the democratic rights and participation in decision-making of workers who belong to different trade unions. Their membership of this or that trade union and confederation (wherever and whenever it arises, and whatever it appears to be) is not a trivial matter, nor should anyone “over-enthusiastically” try to override the decision-making process of each independent trade union.
Numsa has been in a constant dialogue with the leaderships of other unions and has demonstrated consistently to the memberships of these unions its principled efforts to find the way out of the failure of the NDR
Actually the movement around Numsa has brought together a Steering Committee which this summer claimed a meeting of 31 unions. As representatives of their own rank-and-file membership, the Numsa leadership were right to carry out a systematic and thorough struggle for their rights in what was the central organisation of workers in South Africa – Cosatu. The middle class radical undertakes splits and schisms in the movement readily, even light-mindedly on the basis of this or that “impressive” news item, some or other theoretical dogma, or more often personal or clique considerations. This is not the way to build workers’ organisations rooted in principles.
The Numsa leaders are precisely providing “serious and consistent” leadership. Cde. Jensen offers a kind of political ambulance-chasing after whatever events appear to be the most impressive at the time.
In arguing his case, Cde. Jensen touches on many important issues. However, he gets many of these issues wrong and in other instances deals rather superficially with genuine problems which require a little more thought.
Let’s start with the really big one:
“Numsa’s biggest impediment that stood in its way and still stands in its way of realizing revolutionary objectives is its history and culture of reformist politics” with “its roots in the formation of the union in 1987 that brought together various radical and conservative trade union political tendencies and necessitated by unification compromises of the unions’ leadership”, says Cde. Jensen.
From the heights of his revolutionary consciousness (or “sober analysis of the overall relation of forces” as he calls it), Cde. Jensen seems to think that the best help he can give Numsa is: “Stop being reformist and start being revolutionary!” No doubt he hopes this advice will fall “on fertile ground”. The more experienced among us may well be less sanguine. Did not Karl Marx himself say of this approach: “If that’s Marxism, then I’m not a Marxist!”
All the same, Cde. Jensen stumbles upon a number of important points when trying to explain why Numsa (indeed the whole trade union movement in South Africa) became mired in the politics of Stalinism and the “National Democratic Revolution”. The thing is, does he really grasp the significance of what he describes?
MAWU and other unions were born in bold, independent struggles by black workers against a South African capitalism embedded in white minority rule and the Nationalist police state. In these struggles these workers naturally asserted their class independence of the bourgeois/tribalist ANC and its Stalinist supporters in the South African Communist Party. Where the ANC and the SACP promulgated the Freedom Charter, MAWU developed the Workers’ Charter with explicitly socialist demands. The Workers’ Charter is not a mere empty dogmatic call to revolution, but it is very far from being a reformist programme. (The two documents are conveniently available for study and comparison at http://www.workersliberty.org/node/1912)
Cde. Jensen rightly identifies the period of the collapse of Apartheid and the installation of the ANC in power as a key moment for the workers’ movement in South Africa. He points to the damage which was being done to the movement even as the apartheid regime collapsed: “By the early 1990s, with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc ‘socialist’ regimes and the political reforms of the Apartheid government the union had become seeped (sic) in various reformist approaches to its work that saw it shift away from the radicalism and militancy of its main predecessor, MAWU…”
And yet for all its “reformist approaches”, Numsa was the union which led determined and vigorous opposition to the GEAR plan.
Does Cde. Jensen understand the full significance of what he raises? He returns to the matter (perhaps not seeing that it is the same issue) towards the end of his article, calling for “an honest and thorough assessment of the state of class struggle and balance of class forces” as a basis for deciding “on correct tactics and courses of action to achieve maximum working class unity”.
“Since the Numsa moment and still now” (but in reality since the early 1990s!) “the mass organisations of the working class remain weak or simply non-existent. The general level of class consciousness has remained low. The ‘Left’ is still weak – small, fragmented with limited implantation within the working class. Our trade unions are still bureaucratic and politically conservative lifeless shells, not prepared to fight and participate in broader struggles of the working class”.
Actually this blanket description of trade unions expresses an ultra-left prejudice endemic among petit-bourgeois socialists. It is a hint that Jansen himself is not immune to the “impressionism” he condemns in others.
With that exception, the points raised are important. But the timescale matters: these general political conditions didn’t fall from the heavens in December 2013!
Cde. Jensen soon gets onto this, saying: “This weak state of working class organisation exist in the context of the continued neo-capitalist ascendency after more than two decades of economic and political attacks against the working class that has created new structural divisions within it”.
In reality, the core of this “continued neo-capitalist ascendancy” has been the assault on the working class, in its most concentrated form on the political leadership of that class.
The collapse of the workers’ states in the USSR and Eastern Europe has gone hand in hand with a sustained and co-ordinated attack on Marxism at every level and from every quarter. This has seen more than a few former Marxists turn their coats and become abject evangelists for capitalism.
Behind the “structural divisions” which Cde. Jensen rather blandly evokes lurks the reality that working-class populations with their organisations and working-class leaderships have been broken up, dispersed and thoroughly trampled upon. Where they could, the bourgeoisie has destroyed these bodies and the social structures which underlie them; where they cannot, they have poisoned the minds of their leaders with the idea that capital is all-powerful and above challenge.
This has left scars on the workers’ movement which will not heal overnight or on the basis of chasing after the numbers of the student movement or the EFF. Numsa’s leaders have been all-too conscious of the effects of neo-liberal policies: – de-industrialisation, the fragmentation in the workforce, the dilution of workers’ organising scope and rights and all the rest of it. The practical proposals adopted at the December 2013 Special National Congress were carefully designed to roll them back. But Cde. Jensen thinks they are “hardly the issues that could have captured the imagination and concerns of other workers”.
What Cde. Jensen says about the “creaming off of several layers of leaders of the mass movement from the early 1990s by the ruling class who offered them lucrative jobs in the state and companies owned by white monopoly capital” is well-put. It must be added that many of the revolutionary workers who had come to the fore in MAWU were at that time deliberately side-lined in the movement and some of them openly threatened with violence and their lives put in danger by ANC thugs.
These questions are central to the whole matter of what has happened to the workers’ movement and therefore how and by what steps it can recover. Cde. Jensen is impatient to unite the EFF and Numsa in a movement which will somehow empower the masses to achieve “decent housing and service delivery, jobs for the unemployed, free quality education, etc.” It’s all so simple! It is also more than a little light-minded. The key question is not adding together numbers to the most possible demonstrators can be called out onto the streets, but how a movement and a leadership can be built in the course of struggle.
There is starting to be a recovery of working-class struggle and socialist consciousness, but it is emerging very tentatively out of the very conditions of the previous defeats and setbacks the movement has suffered. The real danger exists that petit-bourgeois “revolutionary” Marxists sects see these still fragile beginnings ̶ such as the Numsa turn, Bernie Sanders run in the US Democratic Party primaries, the movement which put Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership of the UK Labour Party, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece – and think they are simply an audience for their dogmas, a sphere in which they can build their own groups. At the same time they are impatient, demanding that the movement should produce better results and move faster than it actually can. They are not able to see the working class going through a stage in its own political development.
The dogmatist insists that every development in class-consciousness has to reflect and follow some abstract ideological purity.
The trade unions in South Africa came under sustained pressure to be “bureaucratic and politically conservative lifeless shells”, but it is within the trade unions that workers have collided head-on with the reality that within the Triple Alliance and the government of South Africa the ANC leadership promulgates the policies of the capitalist ruling class and attacks the rights and the very existence of workers, and that the leading lights in the SACP provide a threadbare theoretical justification for what the ANC leadership is doing.
Cde. Jensen emphasises one side of the matter: workers are held back because of the damage suffered by revolutionary socialist consciousness. But the struggle to overcome that damage is (despite the “impressions” that individual academic Marxists may form) actually taking place through Numsa and Irvin Jim’s insistence that the promises of the National Democratic Revolution should actually be delivered, their obstinate comparing of the results of ANC-Triple Alliance rule with what was promised.
The promises made by the ANC and SACP in the early 1990s were a deception. The tribal elites in the ANC leadership had reached a fundamental agreement with imperialism and the big mining interests that these interests would remain intact. It took a quarter of a century, but over time it became clear to more and more workers and their leaders that they were being conned. The benefits expected and promised from the National Democratic Revolution were not being delivered because there was no move to carry out an NDR. Instead the government has been inflicting neo-liberal attacks on workers and the masses and protecting the interests of big monopolies.
The development in political consciousness reflecting this could not happen in the way a university-trained rationalist might expect, where individuals contemplating the world cogitate about the matter and conclude that the Marxists were right and the National Democratic Revolution is wrong.
The whole dynamic underlying the Numsa turn became very apparent in Numsa General Secretary Cde. Irvin Jim’s Ruth First memorial lecture delivered at Wits University, Braamfontein, on 14 August 2014 (see: http://www.numsa.org.za/article/uth-first-memorial-lecture-delivered-numsa-general-secretary-cde-irvin-jim-thursday-14-august-2014-great-hall-wits-university-braamfontein/).
This is a detailed indictment of the experience of a quarter of a century of Triple Alliance rule. Cde. Jim starts by paying homage to Ruth’s First’s dedication to the struggle as a Marxist who “perfectly understood the necessity to fight simultaneously racial, patriarchal, national and class oppression, domination and exploitation.”
He salutes her as one of those SACP members who helped to frame the ANC Freedom Charter, and goes on to contrast the slogans of the Freedom Charter with the reality of Triple Alliance rule
“The Freedom Charter says:
● The People Shall Rule: I argue that the people are not governing …
●All National Groups Shall have Equal rights
How far have we gone in this regard? Substantively, South African society is structurally incapable of delivering equal rights to all national groups. The system of colonialism, which continues to this day, was based on defining national groups on the basis of race. And so, it came to pass, that Africans remained at the bottom of the food chain …
● The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth!
Nalena abayifuni! There is complete refusal to share the country’s wealth! Some said it will happen over their dead bodies …
● The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It!
Estimates are that black people own between 13—16% of agricultural land in South > Africa. Only 10% of the 30% land earmarked for land restitution has been transferred to black farmers, the target date for the 30% is 2014. At this pace, it will take 100 years to transfer 50% percent of the land back to the people …
● There Shall be Work and Security!
In the past 20 years, there has been no work! In 1995 the unemployment rate was 31%, in 2013 it had risen to 34% …
● The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!
… It is estimated only 3% of the children who enter the schooling system eventually complete with higher grade mathematics. 24% of learners finish schooling in record time.
The pass rate in African schools is 43%, while the pass rate in white schools is 97%.
● There Shall be Houses, Security and Comfort!
There is no security and comfort in the houses of the working class!”
And so on for all the other demands of the Freedom Charter, what was promised is compared unfavourably with what has been achieved.
Trotskyists (including Workers International) warned beforehand that this would be the outcome.
Is it enough now to stand on the touch-line bragging that we were right and the working class allowed itself to be dominated by an illusion? Surely not.
It is in interrogating the experience of 25 years of Triple Alliance rule that the workers’ movement of South Africa starts to find a way back to its revolutionary roots. It is in the persons of the Numsa leadership and their supporters that this interrogation is taking place. Vague references to “revolution” on Cde. Jensen’s part, far from assisting their development, serve to repel the more thoughtful, organised trade union activists away from Marxism rather than attracting them to it. Practical advice (bad advice) to tail-end the demagogues of EEF will not enhance the reputation of the Marxists who give it, but will bring the science of Marxism into disrepute. As Numsa says ̶
Following Marx ̶ it is only the organised class-conscious working class that can lead in making the socialist revolution.
Workers’ International has enthusiastically supported the Numsa turn because it will enable South African workers to test to the limit the theory that the Freedom Charter can bring them satisfaction. And this new movement is standing clearly and consciously against the bourgeois “class enemy” politicians of the ANC.
There is a clear parallel with the British trade unionists (mainly in the United Left group in Unite) who have made up their minds to test to the limit the theory that the working class can find a way to socialism through the election of a left-wing Labour government. Theoretical purists, their eyes fixed on the appearance of the movement, form the “impression” that these workers are “reformists”. And so they are, except that nothing stands still. The determination of these activists to put their convictions into practice in the interests of their class and against the class-collaborators in the trade unions and the Labour Party is the condition for a rebirth of socialist consciousness.
The responsibility of Marxists is thoroughly to support and promulgate and practically advance such developments (usually against sectarians and dogmatists who try to impose their quack remedies and verbal radicalism on the movement).
The conditions exist for unity in action between those of us who are convinced that the future of working people lies in the ending of capitalism and those many people who hope a more limited aim can still bring results, and who certainly are dominated at best by social-democratic and Keynesian conceptions. The basis for unity in action is that these movements are gearing themselves up to fight on the class issues involved. Within that unity in action lies the potential for a development in consciousness.
The Numsa initiative has brought together a Steering Committee to form a new Trade Union Federation. 31 trade unions attended the meeting of this Steering Committee on 30 August this year, which the following day issued a highly interesting Press Release. (http://www.numsa.org.za/article/numsa-welcomes-fawu-decision-leave-cosatu/).
The first thing to say about this press release, which really does deserve attentive study, is that it starts from a thorough consideration of “The Current Political Situation and What it Means for the Working Class: Global Balance of Forces”. This glance around the horizon says in the first sentence: “… conservative forces are attempting to consolidate their power all over the globe and here in South Africa.”
Unlike Cde. Jensen, the leading group in this initiative starts by grappling with the international development of the class struggle.
Turning to South Africa, the Press Release makes the comment reported above about service delivery protest, but goes on to say:
“We remain firmly opposed to corruption by the elite political class. We are however acutely aware that the theft of our wealth, is not just by a few rogue families, but the entire capitalist class”.
It continues: “Despite shifting huge amounts of capital off shore, big business is still sitting on R1.5 trillion in our banks as part of an investment strike, which they conveniently blame on political and economic uncertainties, but is actually to force more neo-liberal concessions from government”.
“Agency” and the EFF
Cde. Jensen points out how “the thousands of EFF members are mere spectators to their leaders’ parliamentary shenanigans and occasional letting off steam mass marches”. It is true that the young supporters of EFF are denied any real role and power in the direction of their movement (in which Marxist rhetoric is mixed up with Black consciousness). For some reason, Cde. Jensen thinks the Numsa leadership could simply rush into a “principled” united front with this EFF.
But Numsa and its allies are actually engaged in a break with the petty-bourgeois politics of the ANC and the Triple Alliance. They are involved in the profoundly important historical job of probing the actual experience of the programme of National Democratic Revolution under ANC rule.
Cde. Jensen believes that the insistence of the Numsa leadership on carrying through systematically the break in the Triple Alliance and Cosatu and the organisation of the biggest possible new trade union federation is a purely conservative reflex which “meant that from the outset in 2011, the workers of the majority of unions in Cosatu were excluded from the important political battle, isolated and disempowered. As mere spectators they did not grow politically … Only during the last phase when it became clear that Numsa would be expelled and Vavi dismissed, did the leaders convene shop stewards council meetings to engage the rank and file about some (!!) of the issues and even then the unions on the other side were excluded”.
Cde. Jensen reveals here a stunning inability to understand vital aspects of actual working-class organisation and consciousness.
First of all, he wants working-class leadership to have as the ready-made starting point of its struggles the worked-out “revolutionary” understanding of all and everything that he, Cde. Jensen, has in his head, when he knows (in his calmer moments) that the whole movement itself has undergone a degeneration from which it must struggle to recover.
He knows that the politics of Stalinism which predominates in the Triple Alliance is wrong, but he cannot see the essential point about the Numsa turn: that it is a break in the carefully-constructed domination of the workers’ movement by Stalinist and reformist conceptions under the pressure of actual events in the class struggle. At one extreme this break is expressed in the killing fields around the Kopje at Marikana, at the other (and this is equally important) at the very top of the trade union movement and in the break-up of the Triple Alliance.
On the one hand Cde. Jensen concedes: “the tasks of Numsa and its allies were enormous”; on the other he criticises “Numsa and its allies” for the slow progress, systematic procedures and careful attention to their own ranks, the body of the rank-and-file Numsa leaders and their development, etc. In the middle of a big political and theoretical struggle, Cde. Jensen urges the Numsa leadership to rush off into an alliance with the EFF who embody the same petty-bourgeois politics with which they are at odds in the ANC and the Alliance.
The 1 September Press Release has a different approach. It expresses extreme concern about “the growing numbers of citizens disengaged with electoral politics. More than 21 million adults of voting age did not even participate in the elections … there is a crisis of political representation, and our people are less clear about who exactly can best represent their interests”.
It confronts frankly the difficulties the trade union movement faces: “In a staggering indictment of Union powerlessness, the employers now set 54% of all wages without any negotiation with workers, either through their union or bilaterally directly with workers” … “The share of wages in the national income (GDP) has continued to plummet well below 50% from 57% in 1991” … “More jobs have been shed. In the last three months of 2015 alone 21,000 manufacturing jobs were lost, with another 80,000 gone in the first three months of this year.” … and: “According to statsSA a staggering 54% of our population lives in poverty”.
From this, Numsa turns toward laying the foundations of a new workers’ movement which “will pay more than lip-service to crucial principles and that will instead offer a vibrant, inclusive and tolerant space for workers to discuss the challenges they face. We hereby pledge that workers will not be expelled for holding different views to the leadership or the majority of other workers! The Constitution that we envisage will not be a throwback to times gone by but will instead be a living document that guides our actions”, including “a real attempt to build women’s leadership and counter both informal and institutionalised discrimination and sexism”.
This path inevitably brings great theoretical and practical challenges which will not be solved by hot air or academic condescension.
In finding its way forward, this movement will need to cast a critical glance back at its own history in order to benefit from the theory and practice, mistakes and triumphs of past revolutionaries as a foundation for its own creative work.
The task is urgent!
Bob Archer, Jan 2017
The Numsa Moment – Has it lost Momentum?
This critique is offered for the union ahead of its next national congress in December 2016 as food for thought towards unlocking Numsa’s historical task that present possibilities for unifying the working class in struggle, increasing its confidence and steering us towards socialist revolution.
In an interview last year, Floyd Shivambu, the EFF’s Deputy President, had this to say in response to Numsa’s reluctance to build unity with them, 1 “What we know is that efforts to start a rival socialist or workers’ party will dwindle into insignificance and will not benefit the working class and workers whom our ideological allies claim to represent.” It has been three years since the historic Numsa moment and it appears that the EFF leader’s claim is true. For three years we have not seen any significant mass campaigns or struggles led by Numsa, let alone grassroots mass democratic organisations emerging that have captured working class interests. What are we to make of this?
The “Numsa Moment” was hailed by socialists locally and internationally as the biggest political breakthrough in Southern Africa since the late 1980’s. Numsa’s special national congress held during December 2013 committed itself to fight and campaign for the most pressing political tasks confronting the working class. These included – to fight and campaign for a militant, independent and unified Cosatu that would of necessity break from the Tripartite Alliance and lead in the establishment of a new United Front (UF) that will co- ordinate struggles in the workplace and communities against neo-liberal policies such as those contained in the ANC government’s National Development Plan (NDP) and at the same time explore the establishment of “a movement for socialism”. The latter involved a comprehensive study of working class parties all over the world to identify elements “of what may constitute a revolutionary programme for the working class”. Importantly, Numsa’s organizational break with the ANC and SACP was of huge symptomatic and symbolic importance and reflected a sharper working class response to the global economic crisis and rising class tensions in South Africa.
While many socialists correctly supported Numsa’s important watershed political decisions and got directly involved in their realization, they failed at the same time to recognize the historical and current weaknesses of the union and assist in overcoming them. A combination of impressionism and overzealousness saw many socialists jumping in without critically appreciating the challenges of the period and limitations of Numsa and its leadership.
By the following year the union initiated a flurry of activities and events to implement its resolutions. This included national and international conferences and a 6-phase programme of “rolling mass action”. The latter focused too narrowly on issues and concerns of the union instead of common issues of all workers and other sections of the working class. The critical Phase 1 of the rolling mass action plan had as its main focus the Employment Tax Incentive Act; beneficiation of all strategic minerals, a ban on the export of scrap metals etc.
These were hardly the issues that could have captured the imagination and concerns of other workers, let alone impoverished sections of the working class. It is hard to fathom why Numsa at the time did not take up the challenge of leading Cosatu’s Living Wage Campaign that, with the right approach, could have won over millions of workers in a common
1 Amandla Magazine, Issue No. 42 October 2015, p16.
struggle. This could have connected directly with the struggle of the platinum mineworkers under AMCU and their demand for R12500 per month. Instead, soon after a five-month strike by the mineworkers, two hundred thousand Numsa members went on strike separately in support of their own wage demands.
This was a missed opportunity for building the UF. Moreover, the 6-phase rolling mass action programme should have been changed to ensure that issues more important to the working class, with a greater preparedness on their part to struggle around, such as for decent housing and service delivery, jobs for the unemployed, free quality education etc. Unsurprisingly, the 6-phase programme has not seen much rolling mass action and faded into oblivion.
Overall, Numsa’s key weakness in attempts at implementing their political resolutions was that it underestimated the tasks at hand and overestimated its own strength and ability. While the fact that it claimed to be the biggest union on the continent with over 300000 members, together with correct political decisions presented great potential for political and organizational advances, this by itself was far from enough to accomplish what is required during this period.
Reform versus Revolution
Numsa’s biggest impediment that stood and still stands in its way of realizing revolutionary objectives is its history and culture of reformist politics. This legacy of reformism has its roots in the formation of the union in 1987 that brought together various radical and conservative trade union political tendencies and necessitated by unification compromises of the unions’ leadership.
By the early 1990’s, with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc “socialist” regimes and the political reforms of the Apartheid government, the union had become seeped in various reformist approaches to its work that saw a shift away from the radicalism and militancy of its main predecessor, MAWU, ten years earlier. By this time the Numsa leadership from the various strands had converged around the SACP as its political home and accepted National Democratic Revolution (NDR) as its theoretical perspective for achieving socialism in South Africa and the need for engaging with white monopoly capital and the state for “radical reform” that would move towards a “mixed economy”, “high skills and high wages” for workers and an internationally competitive South African economy.
The central vehicle for achieving this by Numsa and its leadership was the Tripartite Alliance and deploying much of its top leadership into the state, including senior government posts by the likes of Alec Erwin who became the minister of trade and industry in the Mbeki cabinet that led the anti-working class neo-liberal programme. In recent years the union and its leadership was even part of the “die for Zuma” bandwagon believing that he would lead an anti-neo-liberal ANC government and revert back to the social democratic and Keynesian RDP and Freedom Charter.
While the 2013 Numsa Moment marked a shift to the left by Numsa, coming on the back of ANC government defeats of Cosatu around E-Tolls, labour brokers, the youth wage subsidy, the NDP and the violent state attacks of the Marikana massacre, the farmworkers’ strike and several service delivery protests as well as the extreme levels of corruption of the state – we did not see a simultaneous fundamental shift away from the reformist politics of the union and its leadership. The union still remained committed to the Stalinist two-stage theory of
socialism in the form of the NDR and views as its programme the vague and reformist Freedom Charter.
The Numsa leadership still yearns for the SACP of the era of Joe Slovo instead of bad man Blade Nzimande (current SACP General Secretary and Minister of Higher Education). And yet it was the very Slovo who led the rejection of one of the key tenets of Marxism-Leninism, the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity to usher in socialism. It was the self-same Slovo who introduced neo-liberal measures of privatisation into the government’s housing policy. It was the same Slovo who proposed the “Sunset clauses” during the negotiations with the Apartheid ruling class that led to the democratic counter-revolution, the results of which are all too clear to see after over 20 years of bourgeois democracy.
Illusions of Restoring the Capitalist Economy to favour the Working Class
The union still believes in “transforming the economy in line with the Freedom Charter objectives” and believes that South African capitalism can be saved by “broad-based industrial development”. It still views as its road to socialism using the failed social democratic politics and method of radical reform through pressurizing and “engaging the employers and the state”. These approaches are reformist efforts to transform capitalism along social democratic lines. This internationally discredited class collaborationist approach has misled working classes of other countries for decades. Not only is this view fundamentally incorrect, it is also misplaced since it seriously misunderstands where capitalism is today that makes widespread significant material reforms in favour of the working class extremely unlikely.
Various Numsa leaders have since the early 1990’s sowed this illusion, promoting and leading industrial restructuring to ensure that the South African capitalist economy can be “more competitive”. Numsa leaders like Alec Erwin and Adrienne Bird were the prime movers of this reformist approach and ended up directly serving the interest of capital within the Mbeki government.
Prospects for a return to social democratic measures are at an all-time low. Capitalism cannot be reformed in this period of advanced systemic decay. Reformism is itself an expression of the pressure of the ruling capitalist class on the working class and some of its leaders and the union should not continue to succumb to these pressures. A prime example of this phenomenon was when in the wake of the 2008 – 2009 economic crisis, Vavi in symbolic show of unity with white monopoly capital, jointly at a press conference with Bobby Godsell, called on workers to accept wage freezes in order to save jobs and capitalism.
In line with its “red revolutionary character”, Numsa needed to reject and decisively break from the notion of reforming capitalism since it only serves the interests of monopoly capital and further impoverishes the working class. It cannot be reformed in this period of advanced capitalism. Continuing to hang onto this reformist illusion unnecessarily postpones the revolutionary struggle for socialism. It is only a revolutionary overthrow of the system that can resolve this crisis in favour of the working class.
A thorough Political Review was Required
The union, together with its allies and supporters and involving rank and file members, needed to prioritise having the fullest possible political review of its history and politics. In this way it could have enabled us to learn the lessons and chart forward a revolutionary course that should have informed the mass work required for developing the UF and socialist party.
This review should also have entailed an examination of the union and its own operations and all the factors that inhibit and undermine its ability to direct a revolutionary path for building strong mass working class fighting organisations.
This includes problems such as its own bureaucratization (despite its proud legacy of “worker control”), union chauvinism and not connecting with other trade union and rank and file members and working class communities, its conservative collective bargaining arrangements, its participation in the capitalist economy through its investment company, the social distance of the union leadership from its members with the top union officials earning the salaries of senior managers and top state officials etc.
In fact, three years later and there is still very little evidence of Numsa’s own over 300000 rank and file members having been politically inspired and stirred into action by the Numsa moment.
The Current Period, Numsa and the United Front
In order to give Numsa and its allies a clear idea of the tasks in relation to building the UF, the entire union and its allies, especially the rank and file, require an honest and thorough assessment of the state of class struggle and balance of class forces. This will enable us to decide on correct tactics and courses of action to achieve maximum working class unity and strong mass organisations in the process of struggle at local and national levels.
Since the Numsa moment and still now, the mass organisations of the working class remain weak or simply non-existent. The general level of class consciousness has remained low. The “Left” is still weak – small, fragmented with limited implantation within the working class.
Our trade unions are still bureaucratic and politically conservative lifeless shells, not prepared to fight and participate in broader struggles of the working class. This characterization includes the nine unions that originally allied with Numsa, with some of them still in Cosatu and others like the Food and Allied Workers union (FAWU) that has joined to form a new federation.
This weak state of working class organization exist in the context of the continued neo- liberal capitalist ascendancy after more than two decades of economic and political attacks against the working class that has created new structural divisions within it.
Despite the lower middle class also being severely affected by neo-liberalism, its intelligentsia has become disconnected from the working class and disillusioned with radical politics and even shifted to right-wing and conservative politics.
This loss of this “class ally”, traditionally socially and politically close to the black working class in South Africa during the Apartheid era, has in turn had a detrimental effect on working class politics and its capacity to organize. This came on top of a huge creaming off of
several layers of leaders of the mass movement from the early 1990’s by the ruling class who offered them lucrative jobs in the state and companies owned by white monopoly capital.
But at the same time the capitalist system remains in deep crisis, especially since the economic collapse of 2008. Since then the ruling class has intensified neo-liberal measures against the working class internationally and in South Africa, thereby forcing more and more people to resist and to organize against the attacks on their living standards and to seek radical solutions.
This means that unlike the 1980’s in South Africa, the building material for immediately constructing a mass fighting UF did not exist in abundance and the tasks of Numsa and its allies were enormous. At the same time the Numsa juggernaut had to be politically and organizationally re-orientated to lead and implement the tasks to build the UF and lay the basis for a socialist movement. This could only be achieved through a process of intense organized class struggle and political clarification towards revolutionary Marxism.
The state of the working class during this period can therefore be characterized by a few important features, namely;
But despite this there has been a readiness on the part of the masses to struggle. It is the result of a build-up of frustration over many years with the impact of neo-liberal austerity measures on their lives, deteriorating living standards and disappointment with the corrupt and anti-working class ANC government who they had placed their hopes in for a better life for over two decades.
It is these factors that asserted itself in the revolt of the Platinum miners against the NUM bureaucracy and the wild cat strikes of both the miners and the farm-workers during 2012 – 2013. They are also the underlying cause of the uninterrupted local protests in every part of the country and more recently the #FeesmustFall student movement.
Both this pent up discontent within the working class and the intensification of class antagonisms are intimately linked and were the underlying causes of the constant attacks by the ANC on Vavi and Cosatu at the time, as well as Numsa’s break with the ANC and SACP and its eventual expulsion.
Numsa’s call for a united front and a “movement for socialism” should therefore have fallen on fertile ground if serious and consistent leadership was offered. These were ideas whose time had come but a sober analysis of the overall relation of forces was required. It is within the rank-and-file of the unions that the pent up discontent runs deepest and the Numsa and UF leadership should have organized that this section of organized workers could rub
shoulders with the youth, unemployed and women who have been in the forefront of the township and village protests country-wide.
What was therefore required was a reassertion of working class political and organizational independence through mass united front campaigns around the burning questions of the day. Alas this was not to be since 2013.
The UF approach also meant that Numsa had to do everything in its power to remain within Cosatu and do battle with the reactionary leadership to win over the ordinary members of the other unions to join the UF around the Living Wage and other campaigns. Instead of engaging the rank and file members of the right-wing ANC supporting unions through its own rank and file, the Numsa leaders, its allies and former Cosatu general Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, instead focused on confining the political battle to the Cosatu CEC, the mainstream media and courts. It meant that from the outset in 2011, the workers of the majority of unions in Cosatu were excluded from the important political battle, isolated and disempowered. As mere spectators they did not grow politically and lacked the confidence to challenge and replace their corrupt leaders. This is where the real battle should have been since these workers had been suffering for more than a decade under their unions’ leadership who instead of leading struggles, covertly sided with the employers for unmandated wage settlements – especially in the public sector – where they appeased their ANC government masters. Only during the last phase when it became clear that Numsa would be expelled and Vavi dismissed, did the leaders convene shop-steward council meetings to engage the rank and file about some of the issues and even then the unions on the other side were excluded.
For the Numsa leaders and their allies in the Cosatu CEC at the time, the old union adage of, what you don’t win on the battlefield will not be won in the boardroom, seemingly did not apply.
Why could Numsa and the myriad of smaller left formations that initially formed the “United Front” not have entered into a principled united front agreement with the EFF around common political goals? This would have enabled Numsa and other union members connecting with thousands of militant black working class youth in common struggles and opened up revolutionary possibilities. Instead the thousands of EFF members are mere spectators to their leaders’ parliamentary shenanigans and occasional letting off steam mass marches. With such a mass united front in struggle, both the EFF and Numsa leaders’ anti- white monopoly capital rhetoric could have been tested and advanced.
In conclusion, there can be no doubt that the main tenets of the Numsa moment, i.e. the struggle for working class unity (the UF), for a revolutionary and socialist workers´ government, and the creation of revolutionary socialist or workers’ party (the movement for socialism) remain relevant. They are interrelated and interdependent aspects of the same process: the self-emancipation and liberation of the working class. However, Numsa has not come close to achieving any of the formations it committed itself to in its 2013 congress political resolutions. This, despite many opportunities presented during the past three years.
The student protest movement that unfolded over the past year signaled the beginning of the end for the ANC regime. Notwithstanding the weaknesses and crudity of their methods, by directing their demands towards national government and activating a national movement, the students have demonstrated tremendous political tenacity. The rest of the working class has taken notice and has drawn this lesson. In future we are likely to see local communities that have engaged in hundreds of militant local struggles around “service delivery” for over a decade, seeking unity with each other and building a national resistance movement similar to the UDF of the 1980’s. This prospect needs conscious intervention and support in order to be realized and currently only Numsa, its allies and the EFF offer this possibility.
The World and South Africa are experiencing deep and widespread socio-economic and political crises and the situation has degenerated beyond barbarism, especially for the working class and poor. Inequality, the concentration of wealth and poverty are at unprecedented levels. The resultant class conflicts have produced wars, extreme violence, terror and suffering by a rampant western imperialism led by the US, without any alternative revolutionary working class resistance and political leadership. The challenges to the working class abound – with on the one hand, US imperialism setting up military basis in all the regions of the African continent and elsewhere and at the same time within the trade union movement conservative social democracy dominates. South Africa and many countries in the region are faced with political crises, with all the governments of the traditional nationalist parties having lost credibility after years of corruption and repression. However, no revolutionary alternative exist for the masses to belong to and pursue the struggle in line with their historic interests and mission.
The stakes here are high, with the ANC government facing a crisis and implosion. Their hold over the state has increasingly come under threat. In the context of an economy still overwhelmingly dominated by white monopoly capital and the state being the main instrument of wealth accumulation for the ANC aligned new black section of the bourgeoisie, they will resort to extreme measures to hold onto state power. It is not coincidental that the discredited Zuma presidency has ensured that the state security cluster is led by his most trusted allies. Failing a mass revolutionary response supported by strong organization, working class resistance and opposition will be vulnerable to violent repression by the ANC government. Time is not on our side. The need for a genuine mass united front and revolutionary socialist movement or party is even greater now than in 2013 and cannot be postponed.
Despite its shortcomings, Numsa and the Numsa Moment remain the only real short-term prospects in South Africa for the struggle to form a mass socialist alternative in the process of struggle in response to the crisis and the right-wing backlash that it represents, pregnant with dangers to the working class on all fronts. The union needs to recognize that the real mass working class united front is on the horizon to challenge neo-liberalism and our rulers. It needs to connect with the student movement and local working class struggles to ensure real revolutionary achievement and realise the full potential of the Numsa moment. For this to happen, its ordinary members will need to drive tectonic shifts in its politics, organizational culture and orientation – towards the masses, a genuine united front, a mass working class party and socialist revolution.
Jansen is the director and editor of Workers’ World Media Productions. He wrote this article in his personal capacity.
We have been advised by cd Hewat Beukes that we could send the following documents to you as you are in the same organisation, The Workers International. We hope you will assist in any way in our international campaigns of struggle against the international capitalists and our capitalist government. These documents we have sent to NUMSA with whom we wish to establish brotherly and sisterly links. We also want to establish similar links with your workers.
The United Fishermen 2
The United Fishermen 3
The United Fishermen 5
Mbapewa Kamurongo, Matheus Lungameni
On behalf of the Steering Committee
WE are launching an ambitious Appeal to members and supporters to raise funds for our work in Southern Africa.
It is there that the global re-awakening of the workers’ socialist movement is most concentrated and advanced, and where material resources are most needed if the movement is to make the progress which it can and should make.
The Workers Revolutionary Party in Namibia has won a position where all oppressed and exploited groups in the country turn to it for help in their struggles.
This is possible because of the party’s thoroughgoing understanding of the role the South-West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) government plays as a caretaker for imperialism, based on corrupt rule by a narrow tribal leadership imposed in a deal between the Soviet Union and various imperialist powers in the early 1990s. This regime is both a mockery of democracy and a copy-book example of milking public assets in collusion with imperialist financial interests.
The heart of the WRP(N)’s work is among the country’s miners. The Party’s leadership has worked closely over many years with the TCL miners in their campaign to get back the pensions stolen from them when the company which employed them was liquidated. It has united with the most advanced leaders of the current mine-workers with the aim of making their union (Mineworkers Union of Namibia – MUN) an effective and class-conscious weapon of the country’s working class. Meanwhile, the WRP collaborates with other present and former miners and smelter workers campaigning to protect their homes threatened by financial chicanery by former mine-owners in cahoots with the government and in pursuing claims against their employers for work-related illnesses.
The WRP(N) also stands four-square with:
Railway workers trying to track down the theft of state property;
Road workers protesting against bullying, malpractice and neglect of health and safety by their foreign employers contracted to develop the country’s road network;
Fishery workers on the Atlantic coast who have been on prolonged strike against diminishing wages, overwork and dangerous conditions. From being the best-paid workers in the country, they have become among the lowest-paid, while government-sponsored corruption lets foreign businesses ransack the rich fisheries around Walvis Bay;
Home-owners defending their homes against collusion between crooked lawyers and financiers who try to dispossess them;
Young people demanding access to homes;
Small farmers protecting their traditional lands against seizure by business interests;
Ethnic groups who suffered under German colonial rule seeking access to the compensation pocketed by SWAPO ministers;
Bushmen too now have a WRP(N) member among their leaders.
Former soldiers seeking access to their pensions, also stolen by SWAPO ministers;
Former Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fighters seeking acknowledgment of and compensation for the deaths and other sufferings inflicted on them by the SWAPO leaders during liberation.
The WRP(N) won two parliamentary seats in the 2014 elections, but is denied the official resources which should accompany this electoral success. The party has had to spend a good deal of time fighting off a state-inspired sham “breakaway” which seriously impeded its work.
Nevertheless it held a very successful second congress in 2015 and is now developing a network of branches and conducting a serious programme of theoretical education in Marxism for the new forces coming into the leadership of the Party.
And the WRP is now in touch with the United Front established by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and is preparing to collaborate in its work.
A decisive political break in South Africa
NUMSA launched the United Front initiative in connection with the decisive break with Stalinism in which it is engaged. NUMSA has correctly declared the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to be bourgeois parties and called for a Movement for Socialism to build a Marxist workers’ party.
What they have established is a genuine United Front bringing community groups together with trade unions led by the working class. Its purpose is to stand up for real working class communities in the context of extreme inequality, exploitation of workers, unemployment (especially among young people) and mass poverty.
NUMSA’s aim in building the United Front (and a Marxist workers’ party) is to transform the National Democratic Revolution of 1994 (which left the working class out of the picture and maintained the imperialist exploitation of South Africa intact) into a socialist revolution led by the working class.
The United Front has appealed directly to Workers International to Rebuild the Fourth International for political, practical and material assistance in standing United Front candidates in South Africa’s local elections on 3 August.
We are sure these developments inspire and encourage our sympathisers and supporters as they do us. We have a target of £5,000 and very little time. Please give generously.
How you can donate
1. Use the button on the top right hand corner of the workersinternational.info home page marked ‘donate’, making clear that your donation is for the Southern Africa Appeal.
2. To transfer from your bank account, send donations to:
Unity trust Bank
Account: The Correspondence Society
sort: 60 – 83 – 01
3. Send cheques made out to Correspondence and marked on the back “Southern Africa Appeal” to : PO Box 68375, London , E7 7DT, UK.
Yours in solidarity,
IN THIS EDITION
Marikana support by Namibian miners
Truth & Justice
Available in both English and Afrikaans here!
Inside this issue:
Who can solve the ‘Refugee Crisis’ by Mirek Vodslon
How can we build a workers’ Europe? by Bronwen Handyside
Draft Programme: A Europe fit for working people (for discussion)
Director of Elections, a letter and a communiqué
Committee of Parents / Truth & Justice Commission demands
Continued Human Rights Abuses
Report of a book launch
MUN Regional Committee supports Marikana inquiry call
Namibian Road authority’s reckless roads
Discussion Article by Allen Rasek
UF march call
The revolutionary programme of Trotskyism in South America:
The Theses of Pulacayo
As the leading elements in the South African working class struggle over key points in the revolutionary programme of Marxism, such as the role of the working class in the revolution, how they relate to other classes, how they should work in government and politics, how to organise at the workplace and in the community, how to plan to develop the national economy and industry, how to organise politically as a party and in a United Front, the Pulacayo Theses provide an essential guide for a way forward.
In 1946 the Bolivian Miners’ Federal Trade Union (FSTMB) was a centre of a profound debate between political tendencies which culminated in the Pulacayo Theses submitted by the Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers Party (POR). Now nearly 70 years old, these Theses stand up astonishingly well as a practical and theoretical guide to action.
Workers International Journal strongly recommends a study of these theses to all those who strive to build the movement demanded by the NUMSA special congress of December 2013
I. Basic principles
1. The proletariat, in Bolivia as in other countries, constitutes the revolutionary social class par excellence. The mineworkers, the most advanced and the most combative section of this country’s proletariat, determine the direction of the FSTMB’s struggle.
2. Bolivia is a backward capitalist country; within its economy different stages of development and different modes of production coexist, but the capitalist mode is qualitatively dominant, the other socio-economic forms being a heritage from our historic past. The prominence of the proletariat in national politics flows from this state of affairs.
3. Bolivia, even though a backward country, is only one link in the world capitalist chain. National peculiarities are themselves, a combination of the essential features of the world economy.
4. The distinctive characteristic of Bolivia resides in the fact there has not appeared on the political scene a bourgeoisie capable of liquidating the latifundia system and other pre-capitalist economic forms, of achieving national unification and liberation from the imperialist yoke.
These unfulfilled bourgeois tasks are the bourgeois democratic objectives that must unavoidably be realised. The central problems facing the semi-colonial countries are: the agrarian revolution, that is, the elimination of the feudal heritage, and national independence, namely, shaking off the imperialist yoke. These two tasks are closely inter-linked.
5. “The specific characteristics of the national economy, important as they may be, are more and more becoming an integral part of a higher reality known as the world economy. This is the basis for proletarian internationalism.” Capitalist development is characterised by a growing interlinking of international relations, expressed in the growing volume of foreign trade.
6. The backward countries are subjected to imperialist pressure. Their development is of a combined character. These countries simultaneously combine the most primitive economic forms and the last word in capitalist technology and civilisation. The proletariat of the backward countries is obliged to combine the struggle for bourgeois democratic tasks with the struggle for socialist demands. These two stages—democratic and socialist—“are not separated in struggle by historic stages; they flow immediately from one another.”
7. The feudal landowners have linked their interests with those of world imperialism and have become unconditionally its lackeys.
From this it follows that the ruling class is a veritable feudal bourgeoisie. Given the primitive level of technology, the running of the latifundia would be inconceivable if imperialism did not support them artificially with scraps from its table. Imperialist domination is inconceivable without the aid of the national governments of the elite. There is a high degree of capitalist concentration in, Bolivia; three firms control mining production, the heart of the country’s economic life. The class in power is puny and incapable of achieving its own historic objectives, and so finds itself tied to the interests of the latifundists as well as those of the imperialists. The feudal-bourgeois state is an organ of violence destined to uphold the privileges of the landowners and the capitalists. The state, in the hands of the dominant class, is a powerful instrument for crushing its enemies. Only traitors or imbeciles could continue to maintain that the state can rise above the classes and paternally decide what is due to each of them.
8. The middle class or petit bourgeoisie is the most numerous class, and yet its weight in the national economy is insignificant. The small traders and property owners, the technicians, the bureaucrats, the artisans and the peasantry have been unable up to now to develop an independent class policy and will be even more unable to do so in the future.
The country follows the town and there the leading force is the proletariat. The petit bourgeoisie follow the capitalists in times of “class peace” and when parliamentary activity flourishes. They line up behind the proletariat in moments of acute class struggle (for example during a revolution) and when they become convinced that it alone can show the way to their own emancipation. In both these widely differing circumstances, the independence of the petit bourgeoisie proves to be a myth. Wide layers of the middle class obviously do possess an enormous revolutionary potential—it is enough to recall the aims of the bourgeois democratic revolution—but it is equally clear that they cannot achieve these aims on their own.
9. What characterises the proletariat is that it is the only class possessing sufficient strength to achieve not only its own aims but also those of other classes. Its enormous specific weight in political life is determined by the position it occupies in the production process and not by its numerical weakness. The economic axis of national life will also be the political axis of the future revolution.
The miners’ movement in Bolivia is one of the most advanced workers’ movements in Latin America. The reformists argue that it is impossible for this country to have a more advanced social movement than in the technically more developed countries. Such a mechanical conception of the relation between the development of industry and the political consciousness of the masses has been refuted countless times by history.
If the Bolivian proletariat has become one of the most radical proletariats, it is because of its extreme youth and its incomparable vigour, it is because it has remained practically virgin in politics, it is because it does not have the traditions of parliamentarism or class collaboration, and lastly, because it is struggling in a country where the class struggle has taken on an extremely war-like character. We reply to the reformists and to those in the pay of La Rosca that a proletariat of such quality requires revolutionary demands and the most extreme boldness in struggle.
II. The type of revolution that must take place
1. We mineworkers do not suggest we can leap over the bourgeois democratic tasks, the struggle for elementary democratic rights and for an anti-imperialist agrarian revolution. Neither do we ignore the existence of the petit bourgeoisie, especially peasants and artisans. We point out that if you do not want to see the bourgeois democratic revolution strangled then it must become only one phase of the proletarian revolution. Those who point to us as proponents of an immediate socialist revolution in Bolivia are lying. We know very well that the objective conditions do not exist for it. We say clearly that the revolution will be bourgeois democratic in its objectives and that it will be only one episode in the proletarian revolution for the class that is to lead it.
2. The proletarian revolution in Bolivia does not imply the exclusion of the other exploited layers of the nation; on the contrary, it means the revolutionary alliance of the proletariat with the peasants, the artisans and other sectors of the urban petit bourgeoisie.
3. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the expression at state level of this alliance. The slogan of proletarian revolution and dictatorship shows clearly the fact that it is the working class who will be the leading force of this transformation and of this state. On the contrary, to maintain that the bourgeois democratic revolution, as such, will be brought about by the “progressive” sectors of the bourgeoisie, and that the future state will be a government of national unity and concord, shows a determination to strangle the revolutionary movement within the framework of bourgeois democracy. The workers, once in power, will not be able to confine themselves indefinitely to bourgeois democratic limits; they will find themselves obliged—and more so with every day—to making greater and greater inroads into the regime of private property, in such a way that the revolution will take on a permanent character.
Before the exploited, we, the mineworkers, denounce those who attempt to substitute for the proletarian revolution, palace revolutions fomented by various sections of the feudal bourgeoisie.
III. The struggle against class collaboration
l. The class struggle is, in the last analysis, the struggle for the appropriation of surplus value. The proletariat that sells its labor power struggles to do this on the best terms it can and the owners of the means of production (capitalists) struggle to seize the product of unpaid labour; both pursue opposite aims, which makes their interests irreconcilable.
We must not close our eyes to the fact that the struggle against the bosses is a fight to the death, for in this struggle the fate of private property is at stake.
Unlike our enemies, we recognise no truce in the class struggle. .
The present historical stage, a period of shame for humanity, can only be overcome when social classes have disappeared and there no longer exist exploiter and exploited. Those who practice class collaboration are playing a stupid game of words when they maintain that it is not a question of destroying the rich but of making the poor rich. Our goal is the expropriation of the expropriators.
2. Every attempt to collaborate with our executioners, every attempt to make concessions to the enemy in the course of the struggle, means abandoning the workers to the bourgeoisie. Class collaboration means renouncing our own objectives. Every conquest by the workers, even the most minimal, is obtained only at the price of a bitter struggle against the capitalist system. We cannot think about reaching an understanding with our oppressors because, for us, the program of transitional demands serves the goal of proletarian revolution.
We are not reformists, even when putting before the workers the most advanced platform of demands; we are above all revolutionaries, for we aim to transform the very structure of society.
3. We reject the petit bourgeois illusion according to which the state or some other institution, placing itself above the social classes in struggle, can solve the problems of workers. Such a solution, as the history of the workers’ movement, nationally and internationally, teaches us, has always meant a solution in accord with the interests of capitalism at the expense of the impoverishment and oppression of the proletariat.
Compulsory arbitration and legal limitations of workers’ means of struggle, in most cases mark the onset of defeat. As far as is possible, we fight to destroy compulsory arbitration.
Social conflicts should be resolved under the leadership of the workers and by them alone!
4. The realisation of our program of transitional demands, which must lead to proletarian revolution, is always subject to the class struggle. We are proud of being the most intransigent when there is talk of making compromises with the bosses. That is why it is a key task to struggle against and defeat the reformists who advocate class collaboration, as well as those who tell us to tighten our belts in the name of so-called national salvation. There can be no talk of national grandeur in a country where the workers suffer hunger and oppression; rather we should really talk of national destitution and decay. We will abolish capitalist exploitation.
War to the death against capitalism! War to the death against the reformist collaboration! Follow the path of class struggle towards the destruction of capitalist society!
IV The struggle against imperialism
1. For the mineworkers, the class struggle means above all the struggle against the big mining trusts, against a sector of Yankee imperialism that is oppressing us. The liberation of the exploited is tied to the struggle against imperialism.
Since we are struggling against international capitalism we represent the interests of the whole of society and our aims are shared by the exploited the world over. The destruction of imperialism is a pre-condition to the introduction of technology into agriculture and the creation of light and heavy industry.
We are an integral part of the international proletariat because we are engaged in the destruction of an international force— imperialism.
2. We denounce as declared enemies of the proletariat the “leftists” who have sold out to Yankee imperialism, who talk to us of the greatness of the “democracy” of the north and its worldwide domination. You cannot talk of democracy in the United States of North America where the sixty families dominate the economy, sucking the blood from semi-colonial countries, ours amongst them. Yankee dominance throws up a vast accumulation and sharpening of the antagonisms and contradictions of the capitalist system. The United States is a powder keg, waiting for just one spark to explode it. We declare our solidarity with the North American proletariat and our irreconcilable enmity towards its bourgeoisie who live off plunder and oppression on a world scale.
3. The policies of the imperialists, which dictate Bolivian politics, are determined by the monopoly stage of capitalism. For this reason, imperialist policy can mean only oppression and plunder, the continued transformation of the state to make it a docile instrument in the hands of exploiters. “Good neighbourly relations,” “pan Americanism” and so on, are just a cover which the Yankee imperialists and the Criollo feudal bourgeoisie use to dupe the Latin American peoples.
The system of mutual diplomatic consultation, the creation of international banking institutions with the money of the oppressed countries, the concession to the Yankees of strategic military bases, the one sided contracts for the sale of raw materials etc, are so many devices used by those who govern the Latin American countries to shamefully divert the riches of these countries for the profit of voracious imperialism. To struggle against this embezzlement and to denounce all attempts at imperialist plunder is a fundamental duty of the proletariat.
The Yankees won’t just stop at dictating the composition of cabinets; they will go much further: they have taken on board the task of directing the police activity of the semi-colonial bourgeoisie. The announcement of the struggle against anti-imperialist revolutionaries means nothing less than that.
Workers of Bolivia! Strengthen your cadres in order to fight Yankee imperialist plunder!
V. The struggle against fascism
1. Our struggle against imperialism must run parallel to our struggle against the embezzling feudal bourgeoisie. Anti-fascism, in practice, becomes one aspect of this struggle: defence and attainment of democratic rights and the destruction of the armed bands maintained by the bourgeoisie.
2. Fascism is a product of international capitalism. It is the final stage of the decomposition of imperialism but, in spite of everything, it does not cease to be an imperialist phase. When state violence is organised to defend capitalist privileges and to physically destroy the workers’ movement, we find ourselves in a regime of a fascist type. Bourgeois democracy is a costly luxury that can only be afforded by those countries that have accumulated a great deal of fat at the expense of other countries where famine rages. In poor countries, such as ours, the worker will at one time or another will find himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.
No matter which party has to resort to fascistic methods the better to serve the interests of imperialism, one thing is sure: if capitalist oppression continues to exist, it is inevitable that those governments will be characterised by violence against the workers.
3. The struggle against the fascist bands is subordinated to the struggle against imperialism and the feudal bourgeoisie. Those who, under the pretext of fighting fascism, peddle confidence in equally ‘democratic’ imperialism and the ‘democratic’ feudal-bourgeoisie are only preparing the ground for the inevitable advent of a fascistic regime. To eliminate the fascist peril once and for all, we have to destroy capitalism as a system.
In the fight against fascism, far from artificially dulling class contradictions, we must sharpen the class struggle.
Workers and all the exploited let us destroy capitalism in order to definitively destroy the fascist peril and the fascistic bands! It is only by the methods of proletarian revolution and within the framework of the class struggle that we can smash fascism.
VI. The FSTMB and the present situation
1. The revolutionary situation brought about on July 21 [the overthrow of Villarroel] by the irruption onto the streets of the exploited, deprived of bread and liberty, and by the combative defensive action of the miners forced to defend the social gains and to extract further gains, has allowed the representatives of the mine owners to construct their state apparatus thanks to the treachery and collusion of the reformists who have made a pact with the feudal bourgeoisie. The blood spilled by the people aided its executioner to consolidate its position in power. The fact that the governmental Junta was a provisional institution did not in anyway modify this situation. The mineworkers were right to adopt an attitude of distrust vis-à-vis those in power and to demand from them that they oblige the companies to comply with the law. We cannot and must not solidarise with any government which is not our own, that is, a workers’ government. We cannot take this step because we know that the state represents the interests of the dominant social class.
2. “Worker” ministers do not change the nature of bourgeois governments. As long as the state is the defender of capitalist society, “worker” ministers become common pimps in the service of the bourgeoisie. The worker who is weak enough to swap his battle station in the revolutionary ranks for a bourgeois ministerial portfolio, joins the ranks of the traitors. The bourgeoisie has created “worker” ministers the better to dupe workers and so that the exploited will abandon their own methods of struggle, giving themselves over heart and soul to the guardianship of the “worker” minister.
The FSTMB will never enter a bourgeois government, because this would mean the most bare- faced betrayal of the exploited and the abandonment of our revolutionary class struggle line.
3. The next elections will install a government in the service of the big mining companies, because there is nothing democratic about these elections. The majority of the population, the indigenous [Indian] people and an enormous percentage of the proletariat are, by means of obstacles created by the Electoral Laws and because they are illiterate, refused the right to take part in elections. Sectors of the petit bourgeoisie, corrupted by the dominant class, have the decisive weight in the outcome of elections.
We harbour no illusions about the electoral struggle, we workers will not come to power by stuffing a ballot paper in a ballot box, and we will get there by social revolution. That is why we can assert that our behaviour towards the future government will be the same as towards the present Junta in power. If the laws are complied with, so much the better; that is what governments are supposed to do. If they are not, the government will find itself up against our most strenuous protest.
VII. Transitional demands
Each union, each mining region has its particular problems and the trade unionists in each of these must adapt their day-to-day struggle to these particularities. But, there are also problems which affect worker militants throughout the country and create the possibility of uniting them: growing poverty and the bosses’ boycott, which are becoming more menacing each day. Against these threats the FSTMB proposes radical measures.
1. The establishment of a basic minimum wage and a sliding scale of wages
The suppression of the pulperia barata [company shops] system and the enormous gap between standard of living and real wages, demands the fixing of a minimum wage.
A scientific study of a working class family’s living needs must serve as the basis of indexation for the minimum wage, i.e. of a wage that would allow that family to live a human existence.
In line with the decision of the Third Miners’ Congress (Catavi-Llallagua, March 1946), this wage must be complemented by a sliding scale of wages. In this way we can ensure that the periodic adjustment of wages is not nullified by rising prices.
We will put an end to the ceaseless manoeuvres that consist of swallowing up wage rises through devaluation and the hiking—almost always artificial—of the cost of living. The unions must take charge of the checking of the cost of living and must demand from the companies the automatic increase of wages in line with this cost. The basic wage, far from being static, must rise in line with the increase in the price of basic necessities.
2. The forty-hour week and a sliding scale of working hours
The introduction of machinery into the mines has resulted in the intensification of the work rate. The nature of work underground itself means that the eight-hour day is in fact longer and that it destroys the workers’ vitality in an inhuman way. The very struggle for a better world demands that we free, however little, man from the slavery of the mine. That is why the FSTMB will fight to win the forty-hour week, complete with the introduction of the sliding scale of working hours.
The only way to struggle effectively against the constant danger of a bosses’ boycott is to win the sliding scale of working hours that will reduce the working day in line with the number of unemployed. Such a reduction must not mean a cut in wages, since the latter is considered to be the minimum living wage.
This alone will allow us to avoid the situation where worker militants are crushed by poverty and where the bosses boycott artificially creates an army of unemployed.
3. Occupation of the mines
The capitalists attempt to contain the rise of the workers’ movement with the argument that they are obliged to close unprofitable mines: they attempt to put a rope round the necks of the unions by invoking the spectre of lay-offs. Moreover, temporary suspension of extraction, as experience shows, has only served to make a mockery of the real potential of the social laws and to re- employ workers under the pressure of hunger in truly shameful conditions.
The big companies use a double accounting system. One is intended for the consumption of the workers and for when it comes to paying taxes to the state; the other is used to establish the rate of dividends. For that reason, the figures of the accounts books will not make us give up our legitimate aspirations.
The workers who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of the companies’ prosperity have a right to demand that they are not denied the right to work, even in periods where this is not profitable for the capitalists.
The right to work is not a demand aimed against such and such a capitalist in particular, but against the system as a whole; that is why we cannot let ourselves be stopped by the lamenting of certain bankrupt small manufacturers.
If the bosses find they cannot give their slaves one more piece of bread, if capitalism, in order to survive, must attack the wages and gains won, if the capitalists immediately reply to all demands with the threat of a lock-out, the workers no longer have any other option than to occupy the mines and to take in hand, on their own account, the management of production.
The occupation of the mines, in itself, goes beyond the framework of capitalism, since it poses the question of who is the true master of the mines: the capitalists or the workers? Occupation should not be confused with the socialisation of the mines: it is only a question of avoiding the situation where the success of the bosses’ boycott, condemns the workers to die of starvation. Strikes with mine occupations are becoming one of the central aims of the FSTMB.
From this point of view, it is obvious that the occupation of the mines can only be considered illegal. It couldn’t be otherwise.
An action that, from all points of view, goes beyond the limits of capitalism cannot be catered for by already existing legislation. We know that in occupying the mines we are breaking bourgeois law and we are on the way to creating a new situation. We know that from now, the legislators in the service of the exploiters will give themselves the task of codifying this situation and will try to smother it by means of regulations.
The Supreme Decrees of the junta in power forbidding the seizure of the mines by the workers does not affect our position. We knew in advance that it is impossible in such cases to count on government support, and we are aware that we are not operating under the protection of the law Therefore, no other perspective remains to us but the occupation of the mines without conceding the slightest compensation to the capitalists.
In the course of the occupation of the mines there must emerge mine committees formed with the agreement of all the workers, including those who are not unionised. The mine committees will have to decide the future of the mine and of the workers involved in production
Mineworkers: to thwart the bosses’ boycott—OCCUPY THE MINES.
4. Collective agreements
The law of the land states that the employers are free to choose between individual and collective contracts. Up till now, because it suits the companies, it has not been possible to win collective agreements. We must fight for the implementation of only one type of work contract: the collective contract.
We cannot allow the individual worker to let himself be crushed by the power of capitalism. In fact, he is unable to give his free consent since such a thing cannot exist while domestic poverty forces the acceptance of the most ignominious work contracts.
To the organised capitalists, who pull together to rob the worker through individual contracts, we oppose collective contracts of the workers organised in trade unions.
a) The collective work contract must above all be revocable at any time by the wish of the unions alone.
b) It must be obligatory for all, including non-union members; the worker who is going to sign a contract will find suitable conditions already established.
c) It must not exclude the most favourable of the conditions that may have been won from individual contracts.
d) Its implementation and the contract itself must be under union control.
e) The collective contract must be built upon our platform of transitional demands. Against capitalist extortion: COLLECTIVE WORK CONTRACTS!
5. Workers’ control of the mines
The FSTMB supports every measure that takes the unions on the path towards the achievement of real workers’ control over all aspects of mine work. We must disclose the bosses’ business secrets, their secret accounting, their technological secrets, the processing of minerals, etc, in order to organise direct intervention into these secret plans by the workers themselves. Because our objective is the occupation of the mines, we must turn our attention to throwing the light of day onto the bosses’ secrets.
The workers must control the technical management of the mines, the accounts books, must intervene in the assignment of the different categories of work and, especially, they must make known publicly the profits drawn by the big mining companies and the fraud they perpetrate when it comes to paying taxes or contributions to the workers’ Insurance and Savings Fund.
To the reformists who talk of the sacred rights of the bosses, we oppose the slogan of WORKERS’ CONTROL OF THE MINES.
6. Trade union independence
The realisation of our aspirations will only be possible if we are able to free ourselves from the influence of all sectors of the bourgeoisie and its “left” agents. “Managed” trade unions are a cancer in the workers movement. When trade unions become appendages of government, they lose their freedom of action and lead the masses on the road to defeat.
We denounce the CSTB as an agent of government in the ranks of the workers. We can have no confidence in organisations which have their permanent secretariat in the Ministry of Labor and who send their members out to propagandise for the government.
The FSTMB is absolutely independent from the different sectors of the bourgeoisie, from left reformism and from the government. It practices a revolutionary trade union policy and denounces as treason any accommodation with the bourgeoisie or government.
WAR TO THE DEATH AGAINST GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED TRADE UNIONISM!
7. Arming the workers
We have said that, as long as capitalism exists, the workers will be constantly threatened with violent repression. If we want to avoid a repetition of the Catavi massacre we must arm the workers. To repulse the fascist bands and the strike breakers, let us forge suitably armed workers’ strike pickets. Where are we going to get the arms? The fundamental task is to convince rank and file workers that they must arm themselves against the bourgeoisie, which is itself armed to the teeth; once that conviction is driven home, the material means will be found. Have we perhaps forgotten that we work every day with powerful explosives?
Every strike is the potential beginning of civil war and we must approach it with arms adequate to the task. Our objective is victory and for that we must never forget that the bourgeoisie can count on its army, police and its fascist bands. It falls to us, then, to organise the first cells of the proletarian army. All the unions must form armed pickets from the younger and most combative members.
The trade union strike pickets must organise themselves militarily and as soon as possible.
8. A strike fund
The pulperías baratas [mining company stores] and low wages are the companies’ means of keeping in check the workers, whose daily wage is their only resource. Hunger is the worst enemy of the striker. So that the strike can come to a successful end, we must relieve the striker of the burden of a starving family. The unions must reserve part of their income to build up strike funds, so that they may grant, as the case arises, the necessary aid to the workers.
Break the burden of hunger that the bosses impose on strikers; organise strike funds right away!
9. Control of the abolition of the pulpería barata system
We have already seen that the pulpería barata system made possible the unwarranted enrichment of the bosses at the expense of workers’ wages. However, simply doing away with these shops is only worsening the situation of the workers and is turning into a measure contrary to their interests.
So that the elimination of the pulperías baratas fulfils its function, we must demand that this measure is accompanied by a sliding scale of wages and recognition of the basic minimum wage.
10. The elimination of “a contrato” work
In order to get round the legal daily maximum hours of work and to exploit the workers even
further, the companies have dreamed up different methods of work called “a contrato.” We are obliged to thwart this new capitalist manoeuvre aimed at increasing their spoils. Let us establish a single system of daily wages.
VIII. Direct mass action and the parliamentary struggle
1. Amongst the methods of struggle of the proletariat, direct mass action occupies a central position for us. We know only too well that our liberation will be first and foremost our own work and that to win it we cannot count on the help of any forces other than our own. That is why, at this stage of upturn in the workers’ movement, our preferred method of struggle is the direct action of the masses, that is to say the strike and the occupation of the mines. As much as possible we must avoid striking for insignificant reasons in order to avoid squandering our strength. We must go beyond the stage of localised strikes. Indeed, isolated strikes allow the bourgeoisie to concentrate its forces and attention on a single point. Every strike must start off with the aim of becoming generalised. What is more, a strike by the miners must spread itself to other sectors of workers and to the middle class. Strikes with occupation of the mines are on the agenda. The strikers, from the outset, must control all key points of the mines and, above all, the explosives depots.
We declare that in putting the direct action of the masses to the forefront, we are not denying the importance of other forms of struggle.
Revolutionaries must be everywhere where social life throws the classes into struggle.
2. The parliamentary struggle is important, but in periods of upturn in the revolutionary movement, it takes on a secondary character. In order to play an effective role, parliamentarism must be subordinated to the direct action of the masses. In times of retreat when the masses abandon struggle and the bourgeoisie takes back the positions it has abandoned, parliamentarism can play a prominent role. In general, bourgeois parliaments do not resolve the essential problem of our epoch: the fate of private property. This question will be resolved by the workers in the streets. Although we do not renounce parliamentary struggle, we subject it to definite conditions. We must send to parliament tried and tested revolutionary militants who are in full agreement with our trade union activity. Parliament must become a revolutionary tribune: we know that our representatives will be in a minority, but we also know that they will undertake to expose, from inside the assembly itself, the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie. But above all, the parliamentary struggle must be tied to the direct action of the masses. Worker deputies and mineworkers must act according to one line only: the principles of these theses.
In the course of the next electoral struggle, our task will consist of sending to parliament the strongest possible workers’ bloc. We stress that, while we are anti parliamentarists, we cannot, however, leave the field free to our class enemies. Our voice will be heard in the parliamentary arena as elsewhere.
To the electoral manoeuvres of the left traitors, we counter pose the formation of the PARLIAMENTARY BLOC OF MINERS!
IX. To the bourgeois demand for national unity, we oppose the workers’ united front
1. We are soldiers of the class struggle. We have said that the war against the exploiters is a war to the death. That is why we will destroy every attempt at collaboration within the workers’ ranks. The door to betrayal opened with the famous popular fronts, which, drawing away from the class struggle united the proletariat with the petit bourgeoisie and even with certain sectors of the bourgeoisie.
The policy of popular fronts has cost the international proletariat many defeats. So called “national unity” is the most cynical expression of the negation of class struggle, the abandonment of the oppressed to their executioners, and is the end point of the degeneration which the popular front constitutes. This bourgeois demand has been launched by the reformists. “National unity” means the unity of the bourgeoisie and their lackeys with the aim of muzzling the workers. “National unity” means the defeat of the exploited and the victory of La Rosca. It is impossible to talk of “national unity” when the nation is divided into social classes engaged in a fight to the death. As long as private property reigns, only traitors or paid agents of imperialism can dare to speak of “national unity.”
2. To the bourgeois demand for “national unity” we oppose that of the Proletarian United Front. The uniting of the exploited and the revolutionary elements in one unbreakable bloc is imperative in order to destroy capitalism which is, itself, united in a single bloc. Because we use the methods of proletarian revolution and because we do not step outside the framework of class struggle, we will forge the Proletarian United Front.
3. To counteract bourgeois influences, to achieve our ambitions, to mobilise the masses towards proletarian revolution, we need the Proletarian United Front. Revolutionary elements that identify with our declarations and proletarian organisations (factory workers, railway workers, printers, lorry drivers, etc) all have their place in the Proletarian United Front. Lately, the CSTB has been calling for a Left Front. Even now, we do not know for what purpose such a front is to be formed. If it is only a pre-electoral manoeuvre and if they seek to impose a petit bourgeois leadership on it—the CSTB is petit bourgeois—we declare that we will have nothing to do with such a Left Front. But if it will allow proletarian ideas to be dominant and if its aims are those of these theses, we would rally all our forces to this front which, in the last analysis, would be nothing other than a proletarian front with minor differences and under a different name. Against the united front of La Rosca, against the fronts which the petit bourgeois reformists think up almost daily:
Let us forge the Proletarian United Front!
X. Union confederation
The struggle of the proletariat requires a single command structure. It is necessary to forge a powerful UNION CONFEDERATION [Central Obrera]. The history of the CSTB shows us the way in which we must proceed if we are to succeed in our task. When federations turn themselves into docile instruments of the petit bourgeois political parties, when they begin to make pacts with the bourgeoisie, they cease to be the representatives of the exploited. It is our duty to avoid the manoeuvres of the trade union bureaucrats and sections of craft workers corrupted by the bourgeoisie:
The Confederation of Bolivian Workers must be organised on a truly democratic basis. We are tired of fiddled majorities. We will not stand for an organisation made up of about a hundred craft workers being able to have as much weight in the electoral balance as the FSTMB which numbers about 70,000 workers. The decisions of majority organisations cannot be overturned by the vote of almost non-existent groupings.
The proportional influence of the various federations must be worked out on the basis of the number of members.
PROLETARIAN, NOT PETIT BOURGEOIS, IDEAS MUST TAKE PRIME PLACE IN THE UNION CONFEDERATION.
Moreover, our task is to furnish it with a truly revolutionary program that must take its inspiration from what we put forward in this document.
XI. Agreements and compromises
1. With the bourgeoisie we must make neither bloc nor agreement.
2. We can form blocs and sign agreements with the petit bourgeoisie as a class, but not with its political parties. The Left Front, and the Union Confederation are examples of this type of bloc, but we must take care to fight to put the proletariat at its head. Faced with attempts to make us follow the petit bourgeoisie, we must refuse and break these blocs.
3. It is possible that many pacts or compromises with different sectors will not come to fruition; nevertheless, they are a powerful instrument in our hands. These compromises, if they are undertaken in a revolutionary spirit, allow us to unmask the betrayals of the petit bourgeois leadership and draw their base towards our positions. The July pact between workers and university staff is an example of the way in which a broken agreement can become a formidable weapon against our enemies. When certain academics without any standing launched an attack on our organisation in Oruro, the workers and revolutionary elements from the University attacked them and so gained some influence amongst the students. The declarations made in this document must form the starting point of any alliance.
The success of a pact depends on us, the miners, initiating the attack against the bourgeoisie; we cannot expect petit bourgeois sectors to take such a step.
The leader of the revolution will be the proletariat. The revolutionary collaboration between miners and peasants is a central task of the FSTMB; such collaboration is the key to the coming revolution. The workers must organise peasant unions and must work with the Indian communities.
For this the miners must support the peasants’ struggle against the latifundia and back up their revolutionary activity.
It is our duty to bring about unity with other sectors of workers as well as with the exploited sectors of artisans: journeymen and apprentices.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Alexander, Robert J. Trotskyism in Latin America. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1973.
Dunkerley, James. Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952–82. London : Verso, 1984.
Grindle, Merilee Serrill, and Pilar Domingo. Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative Perspective. London: Institute of Latin American Studies and Cambridge, Mass.: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2003.
Malloy, James M. Bolivia, The Uncompleted Revolution, 2nd ed. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982
Rojas, Juan, and June C. Nash. I Spent my Life in the Mines: The Story of Juan Rojas, Bolivian Tin Miner. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.
NB. the numbering of section Vii parts 5 and 6 has been corrected from the version appearing Wirfi Journal No.13 july 2015
Inside this issue:
Workers Revolutionary Party of Namibia:
Report on November 2014 National Assembly elections
Numsa National Treasurer Mphumzi Maqungo speaks to the Australian Workers Union
Historical Materialism: A timely reminder. An extract from a forthcoming book by BALAZS NAGY examines and defends a fundamental aspect of Marxist thought
In this special supplement of The Journal we publish the full text of the “True State of the Nation Address” issued by the United Front in South Africa on 11 February 2015, the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
THE UNITED FRONT was initiated by the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa(NUMSA). We believe that this statement is of special interest to the People’s Assembly in Britain and people standing up for socialism all over the world.
NUMSA explained that for them the massacre of the Marikana miners “marked a turning point in the social and political life of South Africa”. It could not be “business as usual”. They put the question: “How do we explain the killing of striking miners in a democracy?” They had to conduct “a sustained and thorough analysis of the political meaning of Marikana”.
The leadership concluded that the decisions of the union’s ninth Congress “were no longer enough to guide [them]. The situation had changed to a point where [they] needed a new mandate from the membership”, and their Special Congress in December 2013 decided to break with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and call upon the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to re-establish its independent campaigning role, for “there is no priority more important than safeguarding the capacity of the working class to act in its own interests”.
In so doing NUMSA raised matters of vital importance for workers everywhere “engulfed by the crisis of capitalism which manifests itself in mass unemployment, deepening poverty and widening inequalities”. To end the rule of capital, workers are faced with the task of breaking with fake “socialist” and “communist” parties acting on behalf of the capitalist class and “failing to act as the vanguard of the working class”.
The Special Congress therefore decided on a new united front to coordinate the struggles in the workplace and in communities, to explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism and to conduct a “thoroughgoing discussion on previous attempts to build socialism as well as current experiments to build socialism” and “an international study on the historical formation of working class parties”.