WSF (1999): “Zimbabwe Unions to Launch Workers Party: Is This the Way Forward?”

WSF (1999): “Zimbabwe Unions to Launch Workers Party: Is This the Way Forward?”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

It was announced in March 1999 that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is planning to launch a workers party to contest the 2000 elections. According to the announcement, the unions want a “strong and vigorous political party that could address these issues affecting us”. Clearly, this party is designed to intervene primarily in elections.

Workers Solidarity magazine has always covered the Zimbabwe workers’ movement in detail because we admire and respect the struggles of our fellow workers against hardships, the war in the Congo (costing 6 milion Zim dollars a day), and the repressive Mugabe regime. In March 1998, the unions organised a two-day stay-away against VAT. In August, September and October 1998, there were general strikes on a weekly basis against rises in the fuel price.

When DRC dictator Laurent Kabila arrived in early November 1998, he had to be protected from the working class with riot cops.The country is in a deep crisis — it is here that the working class must act to win a decent future: land, bread and peace.

SOCIALISM

The call for a workers political party reflects the growing power of the working class. It is quite clear that the unions are strong enough to launch a mass party that could win the elections. However, is a workers party the way forward in Zimbabwe?

We do believe in the importance of workers having political organisations to fight for socialism. In our view, the role of a revolutionary political organisation is to win the leadership of ideas: to win the majority of workers to the struggle for workers control, land and freedom. Won to such a programme, the working class can make the revolution through its mass organisations, such as the trade unions.

ELECTIONS?

However, the ZCTU’s proposed party is seen simply as an electioneering organisation, Continue reading

Advertisements

WSF (1999): “ANC’s 1999 Budget Makes the Bosses Smile”

WSF (1999): “ANC’s 1999 Budget Makes the Bosses Smile”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

A number of progressive organisations have claimed that the 1999 budget was a “people’s budget”. For example, the South African Communist Party issued a statement saying that the budget “is one more decisive step in the ongoing transformation programme of the ANC-led alliance”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Delivered in Cape Town on the 17 February, the ANC’s budget made the bosses jump for joy. First of all, it cuts tax on the companies by 5%. This means that the bosses will get R2.5 billion more in profits.

GEARs GRINDING

This is directly in line with the GEAR programme of the government. GEAR is committed to promoting the profits and the interests of the bosses. GEAR is based on the ridiculous idea that more profits for the bosses will mean more jobs and wages for everyone else. Continue reading

WSF (1999):“Voting is your right but have NO ILLUSIONS IN PARLIAMENT”

WSF (1999): “Voting is your right but have NO ILLUSIONS IN PARLIAMENT”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

RIGHT TO VOTE

The WSF supports the right to vote. Working class people fought and died for this right. Any working class person should be free to vote for whoever they want. It is better to live under a democratic government than under the apartheid government. But we must have no illusions in the parliamentary system. As we have seen after nearly 5 years under this sort of government, parliament cannot be trusted. Even the best comrades sent to government have changed drastically.

SWEET LIFE

This is for a simple reason. Continue reading

Moussouris, “Love, Liberty and Learning: The Problem with Skills in Revolution – An Anarchist Perspective on Trade Union Education in COSATU” (2009)

Moussouris, Mandy, 2009, “Love, Liberty and Learning: The Problem with Skills in Revolution – An Anarchist Perspective on Trade Union Education in COSATU” (Honours research dissertation, in Industrial Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand).

Get the PDF here.

Moussouris, “Between Class Struggle and the ‘Developmental State’: COSATU and the Sector Job Summits” (2007)

Mandy Moussouris, 2007, “Between Class Struggle and the ‘Developmental State’: COSATU and the Sector Job Summits, Lessons in Corporatism,” paper presented at “Labour and the Challenges of Development” conference, Global Labour University, University of the of the Witwatersrand, 1-3 April.

Get the PDF here.

Factoria, Sizovuka, “The General Approach of Anarchists/Syndicalists to the United Front and NUMSA” (2015)

The General Approach of Anarchists/Syndicalists to the United Front and NUMSA

b1028by Jakes Factoria and Tina Sizovuka (ZACF)

FROM: Zabalaza number 14, from here

In this section we address questions that have been posed to ZACF militants. We are sharing these discussions because we think these are important and pertinent issues in Southern Africa. If you have questions you would us to address in our next issue, please get in touch!

In this column, comrade Themba Kotane, a union militant, asks:

Will the United Front (UF) address the crises we are currently facing in South Africa? I am concerned about how the UF works and who leads it. In my own view we don’t need a leader, we need to all have equal voice. How can we build the UF as a basis for a stateless, socialist, South Africa?

Jakes Factoria and Tina Sizovuka respond:

What the UF will do, will depend on which perspectives win out in it. Our general anarchist/ syndicalist perspective is that the UF (as well as the unions, like the National union of Metalworkers of SA, NUMSA) should be (re)built, as far as possible, into a movement of counterpower, outside and against the state and capital.

This means UF structures and affiliates should be developed into radical, democratic structures (in the workplaces and in communities) that can fight now against the ruling class, and that can eventually take power, directly. The UF should be (re)built into a direct action-based, direct democratic-structured movement for anarchist revolution. That means building structures in communities (street and ward committees and assemblies) that can replace municipalities, and developing the unions in the workplaces (through shopstewards committees and assemblies) into structures that can take over and run workplaces. This is not such a foreign concept in recent South African history: NUMSA’s predecessor, MAWU, was involved in the movement for “people’s power”, which took many steps in this direction during the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s.

For this to happen, a second step is needed: mass movements like UF and unions must be infused with a revolutionary counterculture. This means the masses are won over through anarchist political education, which is partly about building up the confidence and ability of workers and poor people to run society, including the understanding amongst the majority, that the tasks ahead are bigger Continue reading

Payn, “NUMSA and the ‘United Front Against Neoliberalism’” (2014)

NUMSA and the ‘United Front Against Neoliberalism’

By Jonathan Payn

Part 1 in a series of four articles on the concept and history of the United Front

This article first appeared in Workers World News

The resolution adopted by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to form a ‘United Front against neoliberalism’ – as well as its decision not to endorse the ANC in the elections – represents an interesting development in the political landscape, one which activists should look at carefully and engage.  Due to the language used by the media, the Left, NUMSA’s critics and even NUMSA itself much confusion surrounds the debate – leaving many questions: Is the ‘United Front’ an organisation or attempt to build a new labour federation or political party? Is it an attempt to revive the 1980s United Democratic Front (UDF)? Why NUMSA’s sudden interest in community struggles?

This series, of which this article is the first, aims to clarify these and other questions by looking at the proposal and history of united fronts locally and internationally to clarify key issues and draw lessons that activists can use when engaging the pros and cons of NUMSA’s United Front proposal and if and how they think it should be developed.

NUMSA: The United Front is a weapon for uniting the working class.

Global capitalist crisis and a stalled revolution

To understand NUMSA’s decision to break with the ANC and SACP, and the potential its call for a united front could offer for building a working class-based alternative to the ANC-led Alliance and its neoliberal policies, activists must contextualise these decisions and unpack what NUMSA understands by the United Front.

NUMSA has noted that, twenty years after the democratic transition, the majority-black working class has not experienced meaningful improvements in its conditions. At the same time, however, a small black elite has become super wealthy. In South Africa NUMSA has noted that the neoliberal restructuring, implemented by the ANC government and supported by its Alliance partners, has been aimed at benefiting the capitalist class and has resulted in the increased dominance of finance capital, in massive job losses and increased poverty and inequality.

‘A weapon for uniting the working class’

NUMSA claims not to see the United Front as a new organisation or party but a mechanism “to mobilise the working class in all their formations into a United Front against neoliberalism”. Whereas NUMSA sees the Alliance as “simply a mechanism for mobilising a vote for the ANC”, it envisions the United Front as a “mobilising tool to organise and coordinate working class struggles”.

The United Front is also not about building a new labour federation as NUMSA is calling on COSATU to join it in breaking with the Alliance and building a new movement. Nor is it an attempt to simply revive the UDF. Rather, it is “a way to join other organisations in action, in the trenches”, through sharing common struggles.

NUMSA says that “better working conditions are inseparable from the working class community struggles for transportation, sanitation, water, electricity and shelter” and that it wants to break down the barriers that exist between worker and community struggles. The two pillars on which its United Front would stand are gaining community support for NUMSA campaigns and building “concrete support for other struggles of the working class and the poor wherever and whenever they take place”.

‘NUMSA is part of the community, and NOT the community’

For many community activists the question then is why now, after ignoring community struggles for so long, does NUMSA claim to want to support them? Moreover, why does NUMSA think it should lead this unification process? After all, community activists long ago identified the ANC’s neoliberal character.

Despite the fact that its members come from the communities NUMSA has not supported community struggles in recent years. Yet now it seems NUMSA wants to support community struggles and lead them in building a united front. While it might have a role to play, some community activists feel NUMSA cannot legitimately take the lead in uniting community struggles.

Instead they feel NUMSA should focus on building unity with other unions before approaching communities. Similarly, communities should first work together to unite their own struggles from the bottom up; a process that is already underway in parts of the country.

Only once community struggles are united and coordinated from below, by the activists involved, can they feel confident in uniting community and worker struggles without fear of bigger, more resourced organisations like NUMSA imposing themselves on them.

Conclusion

A good thing about the United Front is that it accommodates ideological differences in order to build the unity of working class formations in struggle. However, Communist Parties have historically engaged in united fronts to create unity in action in struggles against the onslaught of capitalism, but also with the aim of winning over the majority – who mostly (but not exclusively as there were other revolutionary currents) supported reformist social democratic parties – involved in these struggles to their programme and lead as a Party. When engaging the NUMSA United Front proposal, then, it is important to ask whether or not NUMSA also sees the United Front as a tactic to win what it has sometimes unfortunately described as leaderless and unorganised community struggles to its perspectives and to ensure they accept its leadership in struggles.

Community activists across the country have, despite scepticism, responded positively to NUMSA’s call by supporting the 19 March actions against the Youth Wage Subsidy.

Will NUMSA reciprocate by putting its resources and capacity at the service of building “concrete support for other struggles of the working class and the poor “wherever and whenever they take place”?

The possibility of NUMSA playing any relevant role in fostering working class unity depends on the answer to this question.