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

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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.

Payn,” ‘Xenophobia’, service delivery protest and government failure: The case of Thembelihle” (2015)

‘Xenophobia’, service delivery protest and government failure: The case of Thembelihle

Jonathan Payn

Like in 2008, the recent wave of anti-immigrant violence and looting of foreign-owned stores that followed King Zwelithini’s statement that foreigners must “pack their bags and leave” quickly spread to cities and townships across the country. Unlike other places in Johannesburg, however, there were no reports of xenophobic violence in Thembelihle and, although the violence spread to numerous parts of Soweto in 2008, this adjacent township was unaffected then too. This article, based on an interview with an activist from the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC), looks at how working class self-organisation and solidarity helped curb or prevent the outbreak of xenophobic attacks and attempts to draw lessons for preventing future attacks.

xenophobicattacks.jpg

When anti-foreigner looting and violence broke out after a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in Soweto on January 19 this year while looting a foreign-owned store activists from the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, fearing that looting and violence would spill over from Soweto into the neighbouring township, went into action to try and prevent this from happening. First, they went around to the foreign-owned stores and called the owners to a meeting on the Wednesday following the shooting in Soweto to appeal to them to attend a mass meeting called by the TCC for the Sunday to explain to the community

Continue reading

Hattingh, “The South African state’s 2012 budget” (2012)

From ZCommunications here

The South African state’s 2012 budget

By

WSF 1998: “Why we say ‘Asifune GEAR’ (Why we oppose GEAR)”

WSF 1998: “Why we say ‘Asifune GEAR’ (Why we oppose GEAR)”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

In June 1996, the ANC-led government adopted the Growth, Employment and Redistribution plan (GEAR). This plan promotes policies, which blatantly serve the needs of bosses at the expense of workers and the poor. The government’s adoption of GEAR marked its commitment to “free market” policies.

WHAT IS GEAR?

GEAR is the ANC government’s strategy to promote social and economic development. It replaces the RDP. The government argues that the best way in which to “develop” South Africa is to promote “economic growth” (i.e. to increase bosses profit). In other words, there must be a “good investor climate” (things must be good for the bosses), and this will lead to better times. There will be more jobs, and more money to spend on services.

But if one takes a close look at GEAR’s policies it is clear that if government’s policies will ensure that bosses get fat while the poor and working class are condemned to poverty and hunger.

GEAR says: cut back government spending especially public sector wages and jobs, and social services (hospitals, schools, pensions).

* Education and free primary health care will mean very little if hospitals and schools are over crowded, have no money, have no resources (no beds or books) and are understaffed.

* Tertiary education will become much more expensive and bursaries will be cut. Thus making it impossible for workers’ families to attend university or technikon.

* Pensions will remain extremely low.

* There will be very little money for building houses for the homeless.

GEAR says: privatise state assets.

* With the privatisation of state assets, basic services will only be provided to those who can pay (e.g. electricity).

* Many workers will lose their jobs or be forced to accept wage restraint because the bosses and the government aim to cut costs and privatise government assets.

* Workers will have to pay more for services, such as transport

GEAR says: The tax on the bosses companies and personal income will be reduced. Taxes like VAT will increase.

* Instead of the rich and middle classes paying higher rates of tax than the poor, the poor will pay more tax than the rich will. This means that workers pay a disproportionate amount of tax and will shoulder the burden of supporting the government.

GEAR says: Drop exchange controls and trade barriers to open the economy to foreign imports.

* Workers will lose their jobs or be forced to accept low wages as bosses try to make their companies more competitive with cheap imports by cutting labour costs.

GEAR says: Workers to agree to wage restraint (workers must not demand higher wages), flexible labour markets (less regulations and protection) and increased productivity (workers must work harder).

* Less pay, harder work, worse conditions, less worker rights

OPPOSE GEAR

It is clear that if workers and the poor want a better life we must not accept GEAR. But Trevor Manuel has stated that GEAR’s policies are non- negotiable and every one must accept it. COSATU leaders say that they will try to influence the government’s economic policy by talking to their allies in the alliance. We say, we cannot wait for negotiations and must resist GEAR now on the shopfloor. We must take up mass action and strike against the implementation of GEAR!

WORKERS MUST DEMAND

* An end to cutbacks in health, education, welfare, pensions, housing and infrastructure.

* An end to privatisation

* An end to increases in VAT, trade liberalisation and high interest and bank rates.

* A Living wage and an end to wage restraint.

* An end to retrenchment and unemployment. We demand more jobs.

* That COSATU be independent of all political parties so it can fight for the workers.

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

WSF (1998): “SADC : No friend of the working class”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

ecently, SADC (the Southern African Development Community) has been in the news a lot. In particular, SADC has intervened militarily in both Congo and Lesotho. SADC is a regional coalition of governments, and its members are the governments of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. SADC pretends to stand for “democracy” and “development”. But the truth is different. Many of the SADC governments, such as Swaziland and Zimbabwe, have a long history of political oppression. And all of the SADC governments are anti-worker. In October 1997, SADC issued a statement called the Windhoek Declaration. This statement said that “the private sector [is] the locomotive of economic development,” and that “business requires … a climate in which it can develop safely, freely and profitably“.

What this means is that the bosses will play the main role in the economy, and that government must keep the bosses happy.

In practical terms, the statement means policies such as GEAR: privatisation, cuts in health and education spending, cuts in public sector jobs, more VAT and PAYE, less company tax, and low wages and few labour laws to protect workers (“flexible” labour). All of these policies mean less jobs and less money for the working class.

Zimbabwe’s form of GEAR (called ESAP) has seen mass cuts in education spending (down to the level of 1980), health care (down 39% in 1994-5), and jobs (22,000 jobs lost in the public sector; 33,000 in private industry).

WSF (1998): “Right wing ‘social movements for unemployed'”

WSF (1998): “Right wing ‘social movements for unemployed'”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 4, number 2, fourth quarter 1998. Complete PDF is here

DEADLY DANGER TO WORKERS MOVEMENT

Over the last two years, right-win unemployed movements have emerged. These movements are opposed to the organised working class. The Malamulela Social Movement for the Unemployed says that unions cause unemployment by fighting for workers rights. Therefore it fights for LOWER wages. It also wants a “Free Trade Zone” in Johannesburg. This is a zone in which workers have NO legal rights at all. Malamulela is totally wrong when it thinks low wages will make more jobs (see article on last page). Its anti-worker and anti-union politics take it into the arms of reactionary forces like the Democratic Party (with whom it has had joint rallies) and the bosses organisation, the South African Chamber of Business. Only the bosses will benefit from anti-worker and anti-union policies.

Another right-wing unemployed movement is Unemployed Masses of South Africa. This organisation is best known for leading a rally in September under the slogan “We Want Jobs – Not Foreigners”. The rally culminated in the murder of three Senegalese people on a train. The foreigners are not taking the jobs- the bosses are(see article on last page). We must UNITE with foreign workers against the enemies of the working class. IF THE UNIONS DO NOT ORGANISE THE UNEMPLOYED THE RIGHT-WING WILL.

THE RANK & FILE STRIKE BACK

So what is the true way forward for the shop floor? As usual, the workers have already taken the initiative:

* Direct action: in July, the National Union of Mineworkers trashed millions of rands worth of bosses’ property at Eskom’s Megawatt Park, burning three cars and a razing a building, because the bosses refused a wage increase that would keep pace with the cost of living. NUM secretary-general Gwede Mantashe refused to call the workers’ actions “criminal”, which is what the bosses wanted. Mineral and Energy Affairs Minister Penuell Maduna and Public Enterprises Minister Stella Sigcau sided with Eskom, which is suing NUM.

* Strikes against capital: in the first half of 1998, the man-days which the exploiters lost to strikes rose by 19% compared to last year, with major strikes in the chemical and motor industries, as well as industrial action by teachers. COSATU spokesperson Nowetu Mpati said government’s austerity programme and the terrible conditions in which most black workers still live were the main factors driving the strike wave. What the bosses’ media called wage disputes almost always had broader concerns: job losses, casualisation, privatisation. NUM motor industry negotiator Tony Kobe said whereas workers previously had held back on demands in order to give the ANC a chance to service disadvantaged areas, “now they are prepared to heed any call for a strike”

The ANC-IFP government has responded to these strikes much like the NP government did: police with live ammunition were sent to chase protesting airport workers off the runway at Johannesburg International in August – and the media was prevented from witnessing the action.