We pose the question quite deliberately that we have to consider both these issues together, namely that of the establishment of a revolutionary working class party, as well as of a united, workers action front. We cannot establish one without the other. A party has to be tested and grounded in real struggle, otherwise it is purely self-declaratory. On the other hand, to form a united front as an end in itself, will lead to defeat and a reformist dead-end. No capitalist state will end itself due only to mass pressure of a workers’ united front. The essence of any capitalist state is that it is the dictatorship of the capitalist class, with all its repressive organs, the police, the army, security apparatus, prisons, judiciary, etc. The working class cannot use the old apparatus to exercise its rule; working class rule needs to be built from scratch. The revolutionary working class vanguard needs to be consciously united into a fighting entity that leads the working class to take political power through its own mass action methods. The workers’ united front, of necessity, needs to be broad and will unite the working class, which means that it will unite all workers even those who are not necessarily of Socialist consciousness but who feel the need to unite in struggle against the capitalist class. The task of the united front is to win over those remaining workers who are still tied in some way or another or have illusions in the capitalist parties such as ANC, DA, IFP, Cope, EFF, etc. The task of the revolutionary working class party is to lead the struggle for working class power. Thus the 2 go together; the one needs the other, if we are to advance to a workers’ government and Socialism.
We ask in advance, forgiveness for a long explanation, as we need to clarify a number of essential issues.
How the ANC task team prepared the way for the expulsion of Numsa while at the same time trampling on working class independence
When the ANC task team talks of a United Cosatu, what they really mean is that as many of the working class should be united in Cosatu so that the ANC can exercise political control and domination over them.
Just imagine, the mining magnates and labour brokers on the ANC task team were lecturing to Cosatu that there was agreement on implementation of Congress resolutions. In practice however, Numsa has been implementing Cosatu Congress resolutuions but the Cosatu leaders have not. There is a Cosatu resolution against the youth subsidy, Numsa organised a strike, Cosatu leaders did not support it. The ANC has implemented the youth slave subsidy and to add insult to injury, the bulk of the subsidy has been paid out to labour brokers by the ANC govt. Thus in practice, the ones supporting the Congress resolutions has been Numsa, the ones opposing these has been the ANC and Cosatu leaders.
The Special Cosatu CEC statement of 11th Nov 2014 declares the following: ‘the current request for a special national congress ….may lead to a split in Cosatu’. Thus the ANC was justifying that in order to protect the ‘unity’ of Cosatu, Numsa should be expelled. In other words, in order to preserve the unity of Cosatu it should be split! How does one explain this apparent contradiction from the ANC task team? What the ANC leaders really mean is that in order for Cosatu to remain tied to the ANC as a whole (‘unity’) the very influence that threatens to convince the majority of workers to break the alliance with the ANC, namely the Numsa members, should be removed.
This is further shown by the words in Conclusion seven of the ANC task team report in the CEC minute: ‘The timing of the Congress, its precise agenda and purpose, will all be influenced by the outcome of the current internal process within Cosatu and the engagement with the ANC task team’.
In other words, if the point of breaking the alliance with the ANC is on the agenda, the Special Congress will not go ahead. If the breaking of the alliance is not on the agenda, then the ANC will allow the Special Congress to go ahead. Thus the ANC not only tramples on workers’ democratic decision making processes, but they demonstrate, without a doubt, that they are the ones who are behind the expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu.
Conclusion eight indicates that the disciplinary processes against Vavi should continue.
Conclusion nine threatens all the Cosatu staff not to support Numsa, failing which they will face disciplinary action.
Thus, far from standing for unity, the ANC task team is preparing a purge, a definitive split in Cosatu so that they can have control of the Cosatu apparatus to continue to use it as a conveyor belt into parliament and a life of privilege.
The appointment of the ANC task team as a ‘mediator’ in this discussion in Cosatu was a fundamental breach of the founding principle of Cosatu, namely workers’ control. Who is the ANC to tell workers what we may or may not discuss?
Conclusion ten is thus rendered hollow- it proclaims that Cosatu should unite around a ‘fighting programme’ but in reality, it self-limits the programme so that workers’ action must not extend to fundamentally challenge the dominance of the ANC govt. Thus the programme cannot be extended to challenge the mines and the banks as the ANC leaders are on their boards or are in joint ventures with these capitalists.
Conclusion eleven dictates that political differences must first be agreed in the Alliance; thus any decision of Cosatu workers to break from the ANC and SACP must first be agreed by the ANC and SACP. This is how the ANC leaders treat Cosatu members as if workers are immature, under-age children.
The CEC minute does not give reasons why Numsa should be expelled. The Cosatu leaders are as bad as apartheid bosses who dismiss workers without reasons. The only reasons given in the Cosatu CEC minute are the 11 conclusions of the ANC task team and thus it can only be taken that this is the real basis for the expulsion of Numsa. Rather than lose control of the whole Cosatu, the ANC purges the very ones who have become a threat to their lives of privilege. The only thing which is sacrosanct to the Cosatu leaders is the alliance with the labour brokers and mining magnates of the ANC.
While at face value it appears that the ANC is behind the split in Cosatu and the expulsion of Numsa, it is the SACP that is the spearhead of this process. We explain below.
How the SACP plays the major role in splitting Cosatu and Numsa while covering their tracks with calls of ‘Maximum unity’
On the 20th Nov 2014, the SACP issued a statement ‘ Maximum Unity rather than separatism, divisions and disunity: The way forward by the SACP’. The real heading of this SACP document should have been : ‘Split Numsa and join Mawusa!’ We explain below. The article is very significant as it exposes the class basis and real mechanics of the Stalinist notion of the ‘National Democratic Revolution’. We thank the SACP for helping to expose its true capitalist nature.
The central argument in this document is the following: ‘The SACP strategy is not to break away and go a separate route when there are policy differences in the Alliance. FACT: for the Party, MAXIMUM UNITY among the historically oppressed and the working class is sacrosanct. This is the condition for the success of the National Democratic Revolution and the struggle for socialism.’
A clearer statement on the true nature of the ‘National Democratic Revolution’ will be hard to find.
The first point is that irrespective of policy differences, the SACP will maintain its alliance with the ANC. This means that it does not matter that the ANC adopted the anti-worker Gear programme, or the anti-worker NDP, or that the ANC govt instructed the police to commit the Marikana massacre, the SACP will not break its alliance with the ANC. It does not matter to the SACP leaders that the ANC allows most diamonds mined by Anglo American to go to Israel for cutting and polishing. The ANC has paid out most of the youth subsidy to labour brokers, but the SACP is still committed to the ANC. Instead of decent work, in practice the ANC govt is promoting youth slavery but the SACP is not concerned. No policy disagreement will lead to the SACP breaking from the ANC. The SACP is not directly represented in parliament, so this means that the SACP is permanently tied to implement any and all capitalist policies of the ANC. Even if the SACP were on its own in parliament but still maintained the policy of the NDR, they would still tie themselves and the workers who support them, to the tail strings of the ANC and thus of monopoly capital.
In fact the SACP regards this link with the ANC as being sacrosanct. In other words, no worker or SACP member can even question this link, ever. Not only that but this permanent link to the ANC and its policies is the SACP’s condition for success not only of the NDR but also of the struggle for Socialism. It follows directly from this that the SACP will never launch a struggle for workers’ power, a pre-condition for any advance to a workers’ state and thus for a first step towards Socialism. This is because the SACP places as its first premise a defence of the ANC govt and will stand against any and all workers’ uprisings against the capitalist state headed by the ANC.
The ANC is capitalist
The history of Africa shows that every ‘national liberation movement’ upon attaining political power, has openly sided with the imperialists. SA is no different.
The SACP argues that the heritage of colonialism and ‘apartheid’ is to blame for the basis of the extreme poverty conditions. They argue that the ANC cannot be held responsible for this. Yes, capitalism is the root cause of poverty and yes, it well pre-dates ANC rule; that much is given. But since 1994 the track record has not been of eradicating poverty nor of tackling the root of the problem, the capitalists and their system. The ANC in govt has a track record of entrenching capitalism:
Over the past decades, the mining companies have been stealing from SA and Southern Africa through transfer pricing and mislabelling (these are mechanisms which allow mining companies to set up fake companies on offshore islands (like the Cayman islands) which then submits a high charge for some fake service provided- on the books it looks as if the mining company has made little profit which means they pay much less tax than they would normally; also the mine bosses label expensive minerals with the name of a cheaper mineral- thus Platinum can be mislabelled as Palladium, then much less tax is paid). Now here is our point. Ashman, Fine and Newman have shown in research they have done (Journal of Southern African Studies), that the stealing of wealth by mines has increased since 1994 and reached a peak of 20% of GDP in 2007. This means that the mines stole R600 bn just in 2007. If we add up the totals, it runs into trillions of Rands since 1994. The ANC govt is aware of this theft but turns a blind eye to this and all the theft before 1994. Not only that but the ANC leaders are on the boards of Anglo American and other mines; Even further, BEE companies with ANC leaders like Sexwale and Ramaphosa are set up on the mines; Ramaphosa and the Zuma family provide labour broking and private security services on the mines. When workers rose up to challenge the high level of theft by mining bosses, the ANC govt shot them down at Marikana. Not a single cent of the trillions stolen by Anglo American and other mining bosses has been recovered by the ANC bosses. Instead they have taken a stake in the system. Most of the leading causes of death are diseases of poverty( StatsSA 2013 report that TB, flu, pneumonia, respiratory disease, HIV, infectious intestinal disease, immune disorders, hypertensive disorders, preventable diseases at birth, amount to more than 30% of all recorded deaths). The money that the mines stole could have provided decent houses for all, free quality healthcare and education, for decent work for all. The SACP insults workers by saying we must be grateful for homes the govt built that hardly even fit the definition of a house, that are so small, you cannot even change your mind in it. The funds stolen by imperialism is so huge, there would have been no unemployment (workers would not have to live a near animal existence on the scraps dressed up as grants; our children would be well fed from the productive employment of their parents and guardians and would not have to rely on bread and peanut butter sandwiches parading as meals from ANC govt; workers would have had not only electricity connections but low cost electricity that was actually connected and not disconnected and leaving most of the masses in the dark).
The SACP wants to brush these points aside: they are mere ‘tactical differences’, they claim, whereas they are deep programmatic differences.
The SACP is the champion of big capital
The SACP claims it is fighting for Socialism. However, they have launched no campaign whatsoever against transfer pricing and the massive theft by the mining monopolies. Not a single penny that the mining bosses stole, has been recovered by efforts by the SACP. The SACP blames the low wages and poor conditions on the mines, on the deep capitalist crisis of 2008 and in this way covers up for Anglo American. Shame, Anglo was losing profits, so the SACP felt sorry for them. No, they say, workers cannot nationalise the mines nor challenge the mass theft by the bosses- all hardships are due to the crisis which is in the air but does not have an address where workers can complain. This is bad enough, but the SACP goes further.
While the biggest mineworkers revolt in our history was happening, based on a working class challenge to the high levels of exploitation on the mines, the SACP went into partnership with Impala Platinum, a notorious and brutal mining company, one that is also involved in transfer pricing and mass theft. Implats bosses and the SACP leaders formed a joint partnership to open up a Platinum mine, Tamboti (Kameni) Platinum. Thus the SACP leaders show that they indeed have no programmatic differences with the mining magnates in the ANC leadership. In theory the SACP claims to be fighting for Socialism but in practice, they have not only taken a stake in the capitalist system, they have also sided with the very perpetrators of the Marikana massacre.
It is no accident therefore that the natural career path of SACP leaders go into govt and/or heads of big business. Charles Nqakula is Chairman of Sovereignty capital which has dealings with Mining, mining exploration and Uranium mining companies. The slogan of this company is ‘capital for change- capital unlocks change in the world’. The class struggle is for holiday speeches for the SACP, while in reality, the SACP leaders have taken a stake in the capitalist system and in the brutal exploitative conditions that still persist on the mines. Nqakula is still an MP, a deployee from the SACP. This is what is really meant by ‘radical transformation’ it is the radical filling of the pockets of the ANC and SACP elite while the state apparatus is increasingly more militarised to commit more Marikana massacres. It is not for nothing that Nqakula moves seamlessly from SACP leadership to Minister of Police to Chairman of a capitalist company where capital is his force for ‘change’.
The essence of the National Democratic Revolution
In fact when direct colonial rule or in the case of SA, direct rule by means of slave capitalist relations, became no longer possible (in that the masses would no longer tolerate it), the ‘national democratic revolution’ became the new mode for capitalist exploitation and imperialist plunder to continue.
This is because the working class was permanently tied behind a capitalist party and doomed to never ‘imposing a maximum programme’, in other words, doomed to never raise socialist demands and to always bury workers’ interest and to promote the interest of the indigenous middle class and aspirant capitalists. The Communist Party and the workers’ movement associated with it, was, through the NDR, using its legitimacy and its association with the heroic Russian revolution of October 1917, to hold the masses in check behind the pro-capitalist indigenous middle class and to keep the system of exploitation by imperialism, intact.
The NDR is thus a partnership between the Stalinist Communist parties and world imperialism (it must be said that the CP’s are the junior partners in this relationship as they pick up the crumbs from the master’s table). The CP’s keep the masses under control for the price of a few crumbs and imperialism continues its profiteering.
The SACP insists that the path to Socialism is through a permanent tie to the capitalist ANC programme. Thus it follows that the SACP will never reach the Socialist stage as they are tied to a party, the ANC, that has permanent policy differences with that of a real working class programme.
Indeed there are class differences among the formerly oppressed- ranging from the middle class and tiny capitalist class, to the working class. The upper layers of the oppressed are now on the payroll of imperialism. On the other hand, the permanent division that the NDR made, was to put the white worker in the camp of the enemy, whereas they were also exploited by the capitalist class, albeit that they were bought off. What the NDR does is put the interest of the black capitalist above that of the white worker. It places unity with the black capitalist above that of unity with the white worker. The black capitalist sent an elite team of the police to execute mineworkers at Marikana, such was the greed for crumbs from the master’s table. The white worker? Some joined the strike while others did not actively go into opposition against the striking workers. Who is our ally? The worker or the capitalist? The SACP says that the alliance with the mining magnate and labour broker is more important than alliance with the white worker. We only have to recall a few years ago when the train drivers went on strike. When the white workers joined, the strike had won its demands within 3 days. Such is a glimpse of the power of a united working class against the capitalists and their state. The NDR places a permanent obstacle in the way of unity of the working class, it says that unity with the black capitalists are more important than links with our fellow worker. Thus the NDR is an instrument of dividing the working class and of advancement of the black middle class.
The stalinist origin of the National Democratic Revolution
The SACP is proud that the policy of the national democratic revolution comes from 7 years after its formation, that is, it started in 1928. This was during the time of Stalin, who developed the 2-stage approach to revolution for colonial countries. This Stalin policy called for Communist parties to go into alliance with the national liberation movements, for the national liberation movements to be put in power, which meant that workers would not seize power as their had done in Russia in October 1917. Once the local middle class and capitalist class were in power, according to the Stalinist policy, there would be a gradual development into Socialism. All over the world, the Stalin policy was applied and in all cases the national middle class openly sided with imperialism. In China in 1926, for example, the Chinese Communist Party went into alliance with the Kuomintang, the party of the Chinese middle class. When the Kuomintang came into power they shot down thousands of workers and Communists. This forerunner of the Marikana massacre also played itself out around the world, directly as a result of the treacherous policy of Stalinism.
All those who opposed the Stalin policy of 2-stage revolution, or national democratic revolution followed by an indefinitely postponed Socialist revolution, were expelled from the Communist International, many were killed. Stalin killed off most of the original leadership of the Bolshevik party who had led the October 1917 revolution. The killing of the 4 Numsa shopstewards in Kwazulunatal is a rather chilling echo from the Stalin era. Trotsky and many others were expelled from the Communist International. Today Numsa is expelled from Cosatu for breaking from the ANC, which is a de facto break from the national democratic revolution (even though the wording of the Numsa Special Congress resolutions reflect that the break from stalin policy is not yet complete). In fact the persistence of the Numsa leaders with the notion of the national democratic revolution, shows that there are contending forces within Numsa: on the one side the base, who have broken from reformism, who want the Socialist revolution, on the other, there are those who insist on the national democratic revolution and who have not broken from reformism, in other words, they still put their faith in the middle class and a section of ‘progressive’ capital, and whose vision, much like that of Cope, see the parliamentary road comprised of disgruntled ANC and SACP middle class members at the head. Their conception is of an alliance with the disgruntled middle class currently cut out from the feeding trough of privileges- they have the conception of a multi class United Front, indeed a Popular Front, where once again, just as happened in the old UDF days, the middle class and aspirant capitalist class will ride on the backs of the working class, into lives of privilege.
Thus when the SACP talks about ‘tactical differences’ between them and Numsa and other unions, they are speaking about that faction in Numsa and other unions, who have not broken from reformism, who really cling to the national democratic revolution. They are right. The real problem that this faction in Numsa and the SACP have, is the base of Numsa, who have made the bold and definitive break from reformism and who are embarking on the path towards the workers’ seizure of power.
The Freedom Charter is an expression of the Stalinist national democratic revolution
The Numsa NEC statement on the crisis in Cosatu (27th Oct 2014) as do other Numsa documents declare that the Freedom Charter is the basis for the fight against capitalism. This is what the NEC statement says: ‘We are forging ahead to implement a long standing resolution of Cosatu- to build a United Front of social forces united behind the banner of the Freedom Charter and against neoliberal capitalism.’ This is highly problematic as the Freedom Charter is the embodiment of the Stalinist notion of the NDR. We explain.
The Freedom Charter talks about ‘the people shall govern’, ‘the people shall share’, ‘SA belongs to all who live in it’,etc. Nowhere does the Freedom Charter talk about an equal share nor does it talk of abolishing class differences. The Freedom Charter thus defends the right of dollar billionaires, Oppenheimer, Rupert and Wiese, to their ‘share’ of the wealth. In other words, inherent in the Freedom Charter is that class inequality will continue and be protected. In fact the Freedom Charter guarantees that class inequality will continue as the Oppenheimers and others have a right to their ‘share’. In fact the Freedom Charter also guarantees that the rich capitalists will have their voices guaranteed in government (the people shall govern and clearly the ‘people’ includes the capitalists).
In fact, what follows from this is that any ‘nationalisation’ will be on a capitalist basis precisely because the rich capitalists are entitled to their ‘share’. In fact, expropriation of the capitalists without compensation would be against the terms of the Freedom Charter as this would take away the ‘share’ that the rich have. Thus the Freedom Charter is only speaking of capitalist nationalisation, that is, that leaves the capitalist nature of the economy intact. Zambia nationalised its copper mines, Britain nationalised its coal mines, Obama nationalised some of their banks. All these cases left the capitalist structure in place while in essence providing a state subsidy to the capitalist and imperialist class. In October 1917 in Russia, the workers’ expropriated the major industries, without compensation and placed these under workers’ control, something the Freedom Charter does not envisage (as the capitalists, who are part of the people, would lose their share). Thus the Freedom Charter envisages nationalisation but on conditions that maintain the wealth of the capitalists. In other words, the Freedom Charter is a broad BEE programme. A new branch of black capitalists will emerge but only on the basis of what the current capitalists (who control all the wealth) are prepared to share. This is exactly the BEE programme of the ANC in govt since 1994.
That this was the original plan is confirmed by the words of Mandela himself in the June 1956 Liberator newspaper. We give the entire quote:
Whilst the Charter proclaims democratic changes of a far reaching nature, it is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state, but a programme for the unification of various classes and groupings amongst the people on a democratic basis. Under socialism the workers hold state power. They and the peasants own the means of production, land, the factories and the mills. All production is for use and not for profit. The Charter does not contemplate such profound economic and political changes. Its declaration “The people shall govern!” visualizes the transfer of power not to any single social class but to all the people of the country be they workers, peasants, professional men or petty-bourgeoisie.
It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people. The breaking up and democratisation of these monopolies will open up fresh fields for the development of a prosperous Non-European bourgeois class. For the first time in the history of the country the Non-European bourgeoisie will have the opportunity to own in their own name and right mills and factories, and trade and private enterprise will boom and flourish as never before. To destroy these monopolies means the termination of the exploitation of vast sections of the populace by mining kings and land barons and there will be a general rise in living standards of the people. It is precisely because the Charter offers immense opportunities for an overall movement in the material conditions of all classes and groups that it attracts such wide support.’
(See also our article- Marxist Critique of the Freedom Charter, July 2008)
Thus the Freedom Charter stands for the monopolies to be unbundled and whatever the imperialists are prepared to share, to be handed over to the aspirant black capitalists. The Freedom Charter is not a workers’ programme but that of the radical black middle class and aspirant capitalists, so confirms Mandela himself.
That the Freedom Charter is the programme of the radical middle class and aspirant bourgeoisie is also shown by the clause which calls for the freedom to trade and manufacture. This clause excludes the vast majority of the working class. Which worker has the funds or machinery to start to manufacture? Thus it is clear that the Freedom Charter includes the rights of the middle class and capitalist. It follows that the Freedom Charter is not proposing abolishing class differences but on the contrary, is proposing its continuation.
The Freedom Charter is thus the political embodiment of the national democratic revolution, that uses the masses as a conveyor belt for the radical incorporation of black middle class into the capitalist system. As the national democratic revolution perspective has done, through the decades, its aim is to parasite itself on the struggles of the masses while placing the radical black middle class at its head. This is what happened from 1983 to 1990 through the multi-class Popular Front formation, the UDF and it is what some in Numsa want to do, yet again, with the broad masses who have broken from the ANC.
Not surprisingly, the Freedom Charter was actually drafted by the SACP. The ANC went through a sham process to get support among the masses but the final document was really the NDR dressed up in a deliberately vague manner.
The Freedom Charter has a number of progressive democratic demands, but the central question is who is going to implement it
The Freedom Charter has a number of progressive demands such as the abolition of slums and the building of decent housing; a 40 hour week; sharing of the land among all who work it, etc. However, the structure of the Freedom Charter and the National Democratic Revolution places a fundamental obstacle in the way of the attainment of the full democratic demands. The Freedom Charter places the attainment of the democratic programme in the hands of a ‘people’s government’, which unites worker, middle class and capitalist in one regime. This is exactly the same formulation as that of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) which places a government of the worker, the middle class and capitalist at the head of the struggle for the democratic demands.
History has already provided its answer to this question, namely that the middle class and capitalist class are so tied to capitalist relations and have a stake in the system, that they are incapable of completing any single democratic demand. For example, the capitalist monopolies own the best land and they oppose the re-distribution of land as this would mean giving up of their profits. A simple implementation of a 40 hour week would mean higher wages for workers but lower profits for the capitalists. Thus a multi-class Popular Front government, such as the ANC-SACP-Cosatu alliance, is structurally incapable of meeting any single democratic demand as within the government, the reactionary factor is the middle class and capitalist class, who have vested interest in maintaining class inequality.
The Bolsheviks were not part of the February 1917 democratic government in Russia. Their starting point was no confidence in the government, while the starting point of the SACP is that the alliance with the ANC govt is sacrosanct. The Bolsheviks mobilised workers’ structures outside of parliament and against it; the SACP joins the ANC structures, becomes part of the ANC govt and maintain links with it even in the case of policy differences.
Lenin’s April (1917) thesis proclaimed that the middle class and capitalist class were incapable of attaining the democratic programme and thus it was necessary to mobilise for working class power. Lenin realised that only the working class in power was capable of attaining the full democratic programme. This contrasts with the vision of the Freedom Charter and the NDR, that places the attainment of democratic demands in the hands of a multi-class ‘people’s government’. The progamme of Lenin and the NDR are indeed separate and opposing each other. The slogan is the NDR is that the ANC leads (the middle class and capitalist lead, drawing the workers behind them) while the Bolshevik programme was of the working class leading and the broader democratic forces following behind or lending support. The Freedom Charter’s ‘the people shall govern’ is thus an obstacle to the attainment of the very democratic demands it contains.
In opposition to the Freedom Charter, we propose the consideration of the development of a Workers’ Charter, based on working class demands, both democratic and Socialist, of a programme for working class power and a workers’ government. Let us cast off the old clothes and prepare the basis for a new revolutionary working class party.
The SACP call for unity is actually a call for splitting Numsa and any other union opposing ANC policy
The slogan of ‘Unity of the oppressed’, used today, hides class divisions and has turned into a reactionary opposite, as it actually means unity with the black capitalist and burying working class interest. Is Ramaphosa oppressed? No.
So when the SACP says that their strategy (note, not tactic, but their permanent approach, their strategy), is of unity with the ANC, irrespective of any capitalist policy they may adopt, then unity, to them means, uniting with whoever supports the ANC, even if they are capitalist or upper middle class. They are aware of the Numsa Congress decision to break from the ANC and thus, to them, unity means winning back all workers in Numsa, who support the ANC. In other words, now that they failed to persuade Numsa to go back on its Congress decision, the aim of the SACP is to split Numsa. This is why they have set up Mawusa (formed by the ex-Numsa president) in order to provide a home for dead souls in Numsa who long for being used over and over again as a conveyor belt for ANC and SACP leaders to get into lives of privilege.
The attempted expulsion of Numsa, by the forces of the SACP and ANC in Cosatu, is a victory for the capitalist class. They rejoice at seeing the working class divided. They lick their lips at the new attacks against the working class which is now made easier by this expulsion. The SACP does not care- unity with the ANC is sacrosanct, even if workers are split and massacred by the capitalists, the SACP leaders are happy- their lives of privilege, of crumbs from the table of the capitalist masters is all they want and at any cost. They have shown this at Marikana.
The SACP proudly declares they are the ‘defence wall’ of the ANC and that they are the ones who consistently supported the ANC intervention in Cosatu. Indeed the concept of the NDR comes from the SACP. It follows thus that the political basis for the expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu, comes directly and indeed first and foremost from the SACP.
Numsa’s break from the ANC is actually a split in the SACP
Since 1994 Numsa has been one of the bastions of the SACP; when the Socialist left wanted to raise discussions critical of the alliance, they were harassed and hounded by these very Numsa leaders. But as the capitalist programme of the ANC became clearer to workers and in the period of the Marikana massacre, the industrial base of Cosatu broke from the ANC, the workers in Numsa forced a political break at a Congress and their leaders had to follow suit (in order to maintain their leadership positions). The Numsa Congress formalised a split of the base of the SACP. The SACP leaders are desperate to regain their lost foothold. Thus the SACP present a desperate argument for the SACP to be the only workers’ party, trying to win back their base in Numsa that have split with them and that have begun to move in an independent direction, to the left.
The SACP quotes from the Communist Manifesto: ‘The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties.’ So the SACP pleads to the Numsa leaders and the departing SACP members within Numsa, not to form a new working class party. The SACP pleads with them to stay within their ranks.
Thusfar, the Numsa leaders appear to be heeding the call not to press ahead immediately with the formation of a new working class party. In fact the leaders of Numsa appear to be heeding the policy of the SACP but without the SACP. The Numsa leaders base themselves on the NDR and the Freedom Charter.
But the SACP are clinging to outdated formulas, parroting Marx and Marxism out of context. The Communist International accepted the formation of the German Communist party of Rosa Luxembourg which was formed out of a split from the German Social Democratic party. The forerunner of the Russian Communist Party, the Russian Social Democratic Labour party, the Bolsheviks (which split from the Menshevik faction of their party), broke from the entire Second International, which comprised many workers’ parties. The Second International adopted resolutions to support their local bourgeoisie in the first world imperialist war, and the Bolsheviks broke from them and rightly so. The Bolshevik position was to oppose the imperialist war and to turn the struggle into a war against the local capitalist class, indeed to turn the struggle in the direction of the struggle for working class power.
Most of the Communist Parties, in their healthy, earlier days before Stalinisation, were formed out of splits from the Socialist parties. Thus it is not historically correct to say that real Communist parties are not formed in opposition to other workers’ parties.
The Communist workers in Numsa have identified the ANC as capitalist and have broken from the SACP notion of permanent support for it. Thus the Communist workers in Numsa are breaking from the SACP and rightly so. The SACP is the party of the defenders of the perpetrators of the Marikana massacre. There is literally a river of blood between the ex-SACP members and revolutionary Socialists in Numsa on the one hand and the current SACP leaders, on the other.
What is urgently needed are discussions on the programmatic basis for a new, revolutionary working class party, locally, regionally and internationally. In the absence of this and to limit in advance that the United Front will be based on the Freedom Charter, will result in a movement or party, if it is set up, that will be nothing else but the policies of the SACP without the SACP.
Let us cast off the dirty clothes of Stalinism and begin programmatic discussions on a new, revolutionary working class party and its programme. This will provide a revolutionary pole within the United Front, that has as its task, the winning of the rest of the working class, including the rest of the progressive base of the SACP and ANC.
Otherwise the Numsa United Front will become a home of outcasts and breakaways from the ANC, SACP and the rump of Cosatu. The struggle will be misdirected into a fight for union membership and lead to worker fighting worker, instead of uniting as a working class against the capitalist, their attacks and their state.
Towards a workers’ united action front
The capitalist elements in the leadership of Cosatu were being threatened by the growing threat of workers breaking from the ANC. These trends were reflected in the study done for the Cosatu Congress in 2012 but never presented there. This study showed that more than 60% of Cosatu members supported a break from the ANC and setting up of a new workers’ party. This why the ANC stood against the mineworkers who broke from it. The ANC set out to crush those who dared challenge their dominance in NUM, even if it meant massacring them at Marikana. [The NUM has historically been the bastion of ANC within Cosatu]. Many workers in the chemical sector, in the transport sector, in many other sectors, were driven out of Cosatu when they challenged the ANC stranglehold. Now that an entire union, Numsa, has formally broken from the ANC, the ANC and SACP leaders have moved quickly to get rid of this influence because of the threat of the whole of Cosatu breaking from the ANC. This break would consign the ANC to the dustbin of history and their only hope of surviving would be to formally go into alliance with the DA. [in practice, the economic policy of the DA is essentially the same as the ANC].
Thus the ANC in its life and death struggle for crumbs from the master’s table, requires a split in the working class. The ANC leaders need a base to justify their usefulness to imperialism (as they have managed to control the masses for the past 20 years and they hope to do so for the next 20 or until the ‘second coming’!). They do not care about the consequences, namely that it makes it easier for the capitalists to attack the masses.
In the light of the ANC-engineered split in Cosatu, what are our tasks? Surely we need to build unity in action. We need in practice to demonstrate who is for unity and for is splitting the working class. Thus the tactic of the Workers’ United Front becomes important. It is a mechanism to unite, in concrete struggle, all the masses and at the same time it is a mechanism to expose the treacherous leaders in Cosatu. For every struggle against the state, and against the capitalists, not only should we involve communities and grassroots organizations, but the union leaders in all Cosatu affiliates and Cosatu itself, should be invited. Thus if the these leaders do not come, it provides a valuable lesson to their base where their leaders’ class interests lie. It opens the path for unity from below, uniting the entire base of Cosatu against the capitalist and against the state. If the Cosatu leaders do come, then it opens up the way for unity in action of the entire base of Cosatu and the leaders, kicking and screaming, against their will, are dragged from their comfort zones into direct conflict with their real partners, the capitalists and their state.
Thus the United Front has to be a workers’ action front and not a permanent structure that invites the middle class and black capitalist elements to parasite on workers’ struggles.
The struggle for workers’ power and a workers’ government
It is revealing that the SACP sees the 2008 world economic crisis as an excuse to bow to the bosses’ attacks (the Rustenburg mineworkers’ payslips do not lie). Nowhere does the SACP lead the life and death revolt of the working class in this crisis period. They have become the party of capitalist reaction.
Across the world, in almost every country, the masses have broken into open revolt against their regimes. However, in all cases, the absence of an experienced revolutionary leadership and revolutionary party, has led to a vacuum that has been filled by pro-capitalist elements, some directly sponsored by big capital and some, although arising spontaneously, have stopped short of the struggle for working class power and allowed capitalist forces to restore capitalist regimes, albeit with a new face at the head. There have been uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Mali, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, China, Greece, Thailand, Turkey, Spain, USA, Mexico, Bolivia, Ukraine, Sudan, Mozambique, etc. These revolutionary uprisings have also reached South Africa.
The first spark, besides the community revolts for decent housing, was the march to the Union buildings in 2009 of the thousand soldiers who were so fed up with terrible working and living conditions. These soldiers remain suspended up until today which reflects that the entire base of the military was among the first to begin to break the alliance with the ANC. This is no small development and today the soldiers are more loyal to the ideals of the struggle for radical transformation than they are to the anti-worker ANC. [This is also why the state has militarised the police as they know that the soldiers would not be so willing to carry out their massacres]. The struggle for the reinstatement of these soldiers continues.
The break from the ANC was further demonstrated in the mineworkers revolt in 2012-214, which saw new forms of struggle emerging, with workers’ committees being set up, which united in strikes, across union affiliation, permanent and labour broker workers as well as unemployed workers of the communities. These were waves of political strikes against the partnership of the ANC and Cosatu leaders with the big capitalists. These strikes were the biggest in the history of SA. What was missing was the presence of a revolutionary working class party to unite the strands of isolated struggles into a torrent against the capitalists and their state. 2014 has also seen the biggest strike on the mines and the biggest march in the history of SA of 200 000 to parliament in support of Palestine and against the genocide in Gaza. Unfortunately, the left was not strong enough to direct the mineworkers to stay in NUM and overthrow their leadership and force a special congress. Tens of thousands of mineworkers left NUM for Amcu and their struggle was directed into an economic fight for wages and not against the system of capitalist slavery that depends on cheap labour on the mines and the rest of the economy. Imagine the possibilities if both NUM and Numsa passed resolutions breaking from the ANC and calling for a workers’ party. The basis would have been set for a united struggle of the working class for working class power. This would have had international consequences and have inspired the working class around the world.
The Palestine march to parliament was hijacked by the ANC, courtesy of the ANC-aligned BDS and NC4P movements. Nevertheless, as shown by the setting up of workers committees in other struggles and most recently in the Post Office strike, the flame of resistance against the capitalists and their state is far from over.
Numsa missed the opportunity to build the united front in all of these struggles. Workers need to pose the question why the leadership stood apart from these struggles. Is this a reflection that the United front will be a parliamentary front? If so, the members of Numsa and vanguard workers need to oppose this and ensure that the United Front becomes a fighting structure that aims to win the masses to united action against the capitalist system, for working class power and for a workers’ government.
The United Workers’ Action Front needs to support all these struggles but as recent events show us over and over again that unless it goes hand in hand with the formation of a revolutionary working class party, the heroic struggles of the masses risk being hijacked by forces of reaction or at best, end up being isolated and turned into a parliamentary road.
Lenin in his State and Revolution, wrote:
“A democratic republic is the best possible shell for capitalism, and therefore, once capital has gained control (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co) of this very best shell, it establishes power so firmly that no change, either of persons, or institutions, or parties in the bourgeois republic can shake it.”
We need a revolutionary party , not a parliamentary one.
Lenin wrote in April 1917:
“Whoever talks now only of a ‘revolutionary –democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ is lagging behind life. He has by that very fact gone over to the bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle. Him we must put away in the archives of ‘Bolshevik’ pre-revolutionary curiosities (you might call them the archives of the ‘old Bolsheviks’).”
Whoever still talks of the NDR, of permanent alliance between the black middle class and the working class, should be placed in the museum of antiquity.
Lastly, Trotsky wrote in his Permanent revolution, that, in colonial countries, the attainment of the most basic democratic demands can only be achieved by the working class in power. The entire history of Africa and the neo-colonial world is testimony of the consequences of the working class not taking power, of it being held back by the NDR which placed the indigenous middle class in political power and the resultant inability to complete the most basic democratic demands. The middle class and capitalist class have in all cases sided with the imperialists.
The way to achieve the most basic democratic demands lies in the working class taking power through its own mass action methods. The attainment of the very ‘minimum programme’ such as the Freedom Charter, lies in the working class taking power, on its own, supported by other progressive forces. Thus would the path to Socialism be opened. But for this to happen we need a revolutionary working class party. Let’s set to work through a conference of the Left and then let us take the United Front to the next level.
This is our contribution to the debate and struggles around the current crisis in Cosatu.
30 Nov 2014 (amended 9 Dec 2014) Workers International Vanguard Party; 1st Floor, Community House, 41 Salt River rd, Salt River 7925. Email email@example.com website www.workersinternational.org.za ph or sms 0822020617