Despite the claims of DSM (Democratic Socialist Movement) leaders that they are building Wasp (Workers and Socialist Party) as a party of struggle, all signs points an opportunist move to channel the revolutionary anger of the masses into the idle chatter box called parliament.
What kind of party do workers want?
When over 65% of the membership of Cosatu are calling for a new workers’ party, are they calling for a parliamentary party, or they calling for a party that can bring the working class fundamental change? More than half of the 99 strikes last year were ‘unprocedural’, ie they reflected a trend of the working class breaking from the capitalist institutions. The ANC’s NDP (National Development Plan) calls for low wages (‘wage restraint’) but there have been a huge number of strikes for higher wages since December 2012, when it was adopted. From these factors we can conclude that the party that workers want is not only for fundamental change but that also challenges the capitalist system and its institutions. [while on the surface the recent strikes are ‘economic’, they have the character of a political revolt against capitalism and its parties.]
A massive break from the ANC
If 65% of Cosatu support a break from the ANC, then the break with the ANC is much bigger, as many thousands of organised workers left Cosatu over the years and joined or formed independent unions. For the past 20 years, imperialism tolerated a strong Cosatu as a means to control the masses- a strong Cosatu allied to the ANC was the main means of controlling the masses, but now that the majority of the Cosatu members are breaking from the ANC, a strong, united Cosatu poses a threat to the capitalist system.
Imperialism requires that the vanguard of the working class be brought under control again. Imperialism is using different tactics to achieve this, eg they may want to break up Cosatu, so that if the working class vanguard is further divided, then the threat to capitalism will be minimised; at the same time imperialism requires that workers eyes be restricted from looking away from the ANC to another parliamentary party. In this light imperialism is happy with the formation of the Agang, EFF and the Wasp- all these parties, even though apparently differing in degrees of radicalism, have the same effect, namely that the working class breaking from the ANC is once again directed into the dead end of parliament. It is also in this context that if the Numsa workers cannot be brought back under ANC control, imperialism would promote either the splitting of Numsa (this spilt would be led by the SACP leaders in Numsa) or the formation of a reformist party that once again turns workers eyes back to parliament. (even this option could be led also by the SACP leaders in Numsa, with the support of the ‘left’. We deal with the developments in Numsa in a separate article.
The CWI (Committee for a Workers International), the mother body of the DSM and the Wasp
The DSM proudly holds up their Irish, EU and US parliamentarians and candidates as great examples of revolutionaries in parliament. But in all of these regions the capitalists have waged massive attacks on the working class. What the CWI and its Socialist Parties have achieved is getting a few more crumbs from the masters’ table, not stopped any of the large scale attacks on the working class. If anything, what the CWI has helped, is sustain the illusion that fundamental change can take place through parliament. 46% of the US masses reject both the Democrats and Republicans, the CWI says they are the third way, leading the masses back onto the parliamentary road.
What has the presence of the CWI EU parliamentarian had to stop the massive attacks on the masses in Greece, Portugal or Spain? Nothing. In fact the CWI presence in the EU parliament has helped, along with other similar Socialist groups, turn the revolutionary anger of the masses back onto the capitalist parliamentary road. The CWI has helped contain the revolution.
In the current stage of world revolt against the capitalist system, where in many countries the masses have turned their backs on parliament and taken the path of open revolt against their regimes, the line of the CWI, of turning the eyes of the masses back to the capitalist parliament, is opportunist, and helps prop up a system of wage slavery. Contrary to what the CWI claims, they play the role of turning a section of the vanguard fighters against the revolution for Socialism.
At the launch of the Wasp earlier this year, a worker who attended asked, after hearing the input of the Irish Socialist Party member: ‘Is there Socialism in Ireland?’. This sums up the illusion that the CWI creates over their parliamentary work.
Marikana and the Wasp
Since 1994 there has been a gradual exposure of the capitalist nature of the ANC government in the minds of the working class. In the lead up to 1994 and since, the mineworkers had been the backbone of ANC support among the working class. The Marikana massacre of 16th Aug 2012 and the strike wave since then have shattered the base of the ANC in the working class. The NUM leaders and the ANC government have been largely identified as pro-capitalist agents. Every leadership in Cosatu, including the all the affiliates are under threat from the rank and file members.
Out of the mineworkers strikes arose independent workers strike committees which united not only mineworker delegates, across union barriers, but also delegates from mineworker communities. These committees spearheaded the mineworker strike wave. The DSM started working with these strike committees and manoeuvred for a meeting in December to make a call for an electoral workers party. This was sheer opportunism by the DSM, riding on the back of the Marikana massacre and the strike wave to turn it, as the other CWI affiliates had done to struggles in 35 countries around the world, back into capitalist elections.
Most, if not all of the mineworker committees have joined Amcu. Under the direction of the DSM? Now the independent committees are being crushed by the very Amcu. What should have happened was to call for a fight for workers to stay in NUM, to kick out the leaders, for it to call a Congress to formalise the break from the ANC and SACP and calling for the setting up of a revolutionary working class party. Either way, the workers committees should have been maintained as independent structures uniting workers irrespective of union affiliation. Every effort should have gone into extending and broadening the workers committees to every workplace. The DSM leaders and CWI turned away from this revolutionary development and directed workers energies into setting up structures of a parliamentary party, the Wasp. Even when the Wasp was launched, the mine workers committees were largely absent and the meeting was actually a double up of a report back meeting of a few hundred municipal workers of their fight for reinstatement against one of the local authorities.
The opportunism of the DSM and the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters)
On October 15th 2013 the Wasp/DSM leaders wrote to the EFF leaders and proposed a minimum platform as a basis for a joint election pact. This included the demand for ‘nationalisation of the mines, factories and commercial farms at the commanding heights of the economy’. This is similar to the nationalisation clause of the Freedom Charter which the EFF also subscribes to. The problem is that the Freedom Charter and the EFF leaders’ conception of nationalization is under the capitalist state and not under workers control. Thus the DSM leaders were prepared to water down the demands of the working class just to increase the number of votes it would get in parliament, sheer opportunism.
The economic policy of the EFF is to use Singapore as a model. This means that the military dictatorship and smashing of unions in Singapore is the model of the EFF. The DSM leaders do not even make it a condition for the EFF leaders to drop this military dictatorship model before working together, nor do the DSM leaders oppose the notion of the return of the death penalty nor of the 60% state-40% capitalist conception of nationalisation that the EFF is calling for, as a pre-condition for being part of an election platform. This shows that, for the DSM leaders, the programme of the Wasp is up for sale, for votes for the elections.
‘We are all equal, but the DSM is more equal than us all’
In their document ‘National Delegate Conference & the election campaign’ of 21st Oct 2013, the DSM leaders propose that the top 2 candidates for the Wasp election campaign should come from the top DSM leadership. Now, this goes against the principle of ‘workers lead’. The mineworkers were part of the meeting that created the Wasp but they are told to stand at the back of the queue, DSM comes first. In this document the DSM also outlines their wage policy: ‘if a worker is elected as an MP they will be able to claim a WASP salary that matches their previous monthly income unless it exceeds the living wage level specified above by more than a factor of two, ie more than R25 000…’ So a mineworker who earns R8000 per month, if elected, will be limited to R12 500, but the middle class candidate whose earning is likely to be much higher, can get up to R25 000.
Thus the DSM shows their true colours, they have no faith in the working class and they will bend over backwards to accommodate the middle class. To the DSM, we are all equal but the middle class and the DSM leaders are more equal than everybody.
After wages to parliamentarians are paid, according to the above document, the DSM would also be entitled to 25% of what is left of the salary of the top 2 candidates.
Thus the Wasp election campaign is nothing but a thinly disguised DSM campaign, on a watered down programme. 98% of the energies of the DSM is spent on preparations for elections but actual discussion of the programme that a revolutionary working class party requires, is really not existent.
What is the theoretical basis of the parliamentary politics of the CWI and the DSM?
The CWI and the DSM (and its predecessor, the MWT, Marxist Workers tendency) have a history of long term-entering capitalist parties like the British Labour Party and the ANC. They claim they have been fighting for years for the Labour party and the ANC to adopt a Socialist Programme. But herein lies the fundamental flaw of the CWI and the DSM. For all the years that the CWI affiliates spent inside the capitalist parties, they had to subject themselves to the discipline and programme of these parties in practice, undermining the development of independent working class parties and structures.
Secondly, and equally importantly, the CWI/DSM placed the implementation of the Socialist programme in the hands of the middle class and capitalist elements in the Labour Party and the ANC. This is like giving a Socialist programme to Tony Blair or Patrice Motsepe or Tokyo Sexwale and asking them to implement it. This is why the CWI/DSM leaders want to merge with the EFF, they think that putting a Socialist Programme in the hands of Malema will advance workers’ interests. The point is, just to get to meet Malema, the DSM have watered down the Wasp programme, just as the old MWT watered down their own programme just to get into the ANC.
While claiming that they are different from the 2-stage theory of the SACP and the Stalinists, the position of the CWI/DSM is politically the same. In fact, the main reason that capitalism has gained 20 years of further uninterrupted plundering of SA is precisely because of the SACP’s 2 stage theory.
The SACP argued as follows: The workers cannot take power now, we need a further stage of capitalism, where the ANC leads, the middle class and capitalist class in the ANC lead the struggle for the completion of the ‘national democratic revolution’, ie democratic demands; the workers will mobilise at some unspecified date in the distant future for Socialism. In other words, the fate of democratic demands like housing, jobs, end to group areas, end to racial privileges, is left in the hands of the middle class and capitalist class of the ANC.
The CWI/MWT argued as follows: The ANC should have adopted a Socialist Programme, without which workers’ interests would not be advanced, but while we are fighting for the ANC to adopt such a programme, the working class should remain loyal to and implement the capitalist programme of the ANC. Even if the ANC adopts the Socialist Programme, the implementation thereof rests on the shoulders of the middle class and the capitalist elements within the ANC.
The past 20 years have decisively shown that the middle class and capitalist class of the ANC have not only held back the struggles of workers even for democratic demands, they have also begun to attack and take back gains made by workers through hard struggles. The role of the middle class in capitalist governments in leading the attacks of the capitalist class on the masses is an international trend.
Now, the DSM is arguing: let us merge with the EFF, if we can convince them to adopt a Socialist Programme, the fate of the implementation of this programme is left to the middle class and capitalist elements of the EFF. While we are trying to convince the EFF of the need for a Socialist Programme, we will water down our programme, so says the CWI/DSM leaders.
The difference between the SACP and the DSM is that the SACP places the struggle for democratic demands in the hands of the black middle class and capitalist class, while the DSM places the struggle for Socialism in the hands of the black middle class and capitalists. Both agree that the struggle for Socialism be placed on hold while they try to convince the middle class to adopt their revolutionary programme. The SACP makes the ANC appear more red, while the DSM makes the EFF appear more red than they really are. Both do not have faith in the working class taking power, both place the faith of the masses in the hands of the black middle class.
The Way forward
We need a conference of the left to discuss and adopt a revolutionary programme for the Southern African revolution, based on an analysis of the mistakes made in struggles in the past period, as well as drawing the positive lessons. The adoption of the programme should serve as the basis for the merger of all the smaller groups into a single revolutionary working class party.
For Cosatu we propose the following line:
· Grassroots discussion forums involving the rank and file workers on the breaking of the alliance with the ANC and SACP
· Campaigning for the setting up of a revolutionary working class party
· Maintaining the unity of Cosatu and possible merging of unions outside of Cosatu with Cosatu affiliates based on the breaking of the alliance with the ANC and SACP
· Replacing of the current leadership of Cosatu with independent working class fighters
· Calling of a workers summit to unite the broader working class, different unions and community based representatives, to adopt a programme of action around workers’ demands.
· Consideration of an electoral tactic only on the basis of exposing the current parliament and capitalist parties.
Workers International Vanguard Party