Unite the strikes and community struggles;

Prepare the way towards a general strike, let us unite like the masses in Egypt, Greece, Chile and elsewhere

23.7.2011

The working class in South Africa always been prepared to struggle against the capitalist system- the biggest obstacle in the way of a real resistance to the current capitalist onslaught is the Cosatu and SACP leadership. This leadership is doing everything to water down workers demands and to divide and isolate workers struggles- in short, the Cosatu and SACP leaders are the agents of the capitalists and imperialists within the workers movement.

 

The current wave of strikes that continue from last year’s public sector and municipal strikes, show that the grassroots of Cosatu is starting to break from the alliance with the ANC and SACP. Workers who are on strike openly talk about how last year, when the public sector workers were demanding 12% (a double digit increase) that Vavi and the rest of the Cosatu leadership came to the rescue of the government and big capital by declaring that 7.5% was good enough for workers. Big capital (the imperialists) were very happy with the Cosatu and SACP leaders because they could now force the rest of the working class to accept a 7.5% ‘increase’ or less. Last year, petrol went up by more than 10%, electricity went up by 30%, food went up by more than 20% but the Cosatu leaders declared that 7.5% was good enough for workers while in 2009, when 1 million workers were being retrenched without a fight by the leaders, they gave themselves a 100% increase to earn R500 000 per annum (what the Cosatu leaders call a ‘market related’ increase). Cosatu’s investment company, Kopano Ke Matla, has a 10.8% share in Gidani that runs the Lotto. Thus the fat salaries of the Cosatu officials is taken from exploitation of the poorest of the poor. The ‘market-related’ salaries of the Cosatu and SACP leaders have enabled them to move into the areas of the bourgeoisie, like Sandton, while over the hill the masses live in deprivation.

 

The Cosatu and SACP leaders betray the Living wage campaign

It is no accident that most sectors deadlock during July- this was part of the Living wage campaign in Cosatu in the 1980’s. The idea was for all sectors to negotiate and deadlock at the same time, to unite the struggles in a general strike against the capitalist class and the old regime. The current Cosatu and SACP leaders all know that- they were part of the struggles at that time. This year, already the price of fuel has gone up by more than 15%, electricity has again gone up by 30%, food inflation just for the first 6 months is more than 15%, yet most sectors are only demanding between 13-18%- very low indeed, workers should be demanding at least 30% increases. Not only that but the Cosatu leaders knew months ago that virtually every sector was in deadlock- the metal, chemical and paper, public sector, the municipal sector, the mines. Yet the Cosatu leaders postponed their Central Committee which was due to take place before the 18th May elections, to the end of June. Cosatu’s own research arm, Naledi, presented evidence that between real wages of workers have declined from an average of R3558 in 1995 to R2744 in 2005, a decline of 23%. Naledi was arguing for a revival of the Living wage campaign. Yet the Cosatu leaders abandoned workers to fight in their own corners, instead of uniting in a general strike as was the original aim.

 

Not only are Cosatu and SACP leaders working day and night to divide the fight of workers and for them to lower their demands, when workers have forced strikes to go ahead, the leaders do very little mobilising of workers on the ground for the strike- as has been the case of the metal and chemical and paper strikes so far. Despite the lack of preparation for the strikes, the workers have come out in tens of thousands. Since 22nd July the diamond mineworkers have come out on strike while the union leaders are desperately trying to persuade mine workers in other sub-sectors, to lower their demands.

 

How the Cosatu and SACP leaders cover for the real ‘predatory elite’ and the way forward

The Cosatu leaders pat themselves on the back when the capitalist press flatters them about their ‘fight against corruption’. In many countries, imperialism uses the same technique to maintain control of the masses. For example in China the ruling Communist Party arrest corrupt bureaucrats who steal too much from the capitalist and the capitalist state, while the US monopolies and banks carry off billions of dollars in profits, stolen from the most brutal exploitation of the working class. Since 2007 there have been almost daily strikes in China, resisting the capitalist and imperialist exploitation. Cosatu and SACP leaders rail against corrupt officials in the state and the ‘tenderpreneurs’ but say nothing about the most brutal exploitation by the imperialist monopolies that control most of the wealth in the country (the Anglo American, Liberty Life, Sanlam, Old Mutual and Rembrandt).

 

The very police that are shooting the strikers are also represented in the Cosatu executive meetings- the police union, while condemning the shooting is strikers also call for protection of private property- in that they have the same position as the Cosatu and SACP leaders and show their true class role

 

The ANC has reduced the tax rate for companies, which used to be 48% in the days of ‘apartheid’ (slave capitalism), to 28%. Company profits have grown to R350 Bn per annum, most of which is taken out of the country. (and this is only the declared profits- the real figure of the wealth stolen from the working class must be much higher). The Cosatu ANC and SACP leaders want us all to focus on the pay of the CEO’s which has risen this year by 23% for the top 40 companies (their bonuses went up by 56%). If the CEO’s millionaire salaries are limited, then the geniuses in government and in the SACP and Cosatu leadership want workers to accept a 6% ‘increase’ (in reality a wage cut). This is a scam as the companies would still be taking hundreds of billions in profits from brutal exploitation of the working class. The bosses would still pay their CEO’ millions while the masses die of starvation. The SACP fully endorses the ANC’s New Growth Path, which is a plan to lower workers wages while allowing the imperialist companies to continue to rake in massive profits. This plan has been championed by none other than ex-Cosatu leader, Ebrahim Patel. 

 

The leaders want us to focus on the ANC investment company, Chancellor House, which received R3bn and forget that the ANC government facilitated that Anglo American and its French partners receiving over R1 trillion (R1000 Bn) for a fraudulent electricity build programme in the next 10-15 years to double the electricity capacity, while industry is in decline. (Solar and hydropower would be a fraction of the overall cost, if we consider the ongoing expenses, but they are ignored in favour of a coal and nuclear- both sectors which are controlled by Anglo American).

 

There was a resolution from the 2006 Cosatu Congress for general strikes of at least 2 days. These are just ignored by the leaders. Workers have forced Cosatu decisions for general strikes against the electricity and food price increases- the Cosatu and SACP leaders just trample on and ignore the masses. Kopano, the Cosatu investment company, also has shares in SANRAL, for road upgrading, a joint partnership with the Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase (these are the very companies that control Anglo American). Izingwe, the investment company linked to the SACP is in partnership with AngloGold Ashanti. Ex-Numsa organiser, Sipho Pityana, is head of Izingwe and also a director of AngloGold Ashanti. Ex-comrade Pityana’s favourite company is US imperialist company, General Electric- the same one benefiting from the electricity build programme through their control of Hitachi. Kopano also has investments in mining, showing a direct partnership with Anglo American. The Cosatu and SACP leaders are the best alliance partners for Anglo American and imperialism in general. The Cosatu and SACP leaders act to protect their privileges first and above any working class demand- we need to realize this and quickly. We cannot depend on the Cosatu leaders- we have to ensure rank and file strike committees, with delegates subject to instant recall, control the direction of the strikes. In the Numsa strike, the leaders were able to manipulate mandates, putting regions against each other, saying to the one region that the other had agreed with the 10% settlement, to manipulate a quick settlement of the strike, which has left the chemical and paper sectors and other sectors isolated. The 10% is a step forward, considering that the leaders wanted the workers to settle for less- nevertheless, the leadership imposed a 3 year agreement which gives a low 8% in each of the next 2 years. In the next few months, the 10% could still be wiped out through further food and other price increases- it is thus important that workers fight for increases that are linked to increases each time that food, transport, housing, electricity and other basic necessities, increases. It is important to prepare for a General Strike.

 

Cosatu and SACP leaders protect the capitalist class by calling marches away from company premises on the first day of the strikes. This prepares the platform for stayaways and in effect giving up of control of the workplace to the capitalist, who then organises their security and keep workers locked out. Even when general strikes are called, they are really general stayaways, not occupation of the workplace. The stayaway tactic by the SACP and Cosatu leaders protect the companies from being occupied and taken over by the workers, in this way they play the role of protector of the big bosses within the ranks of the working class. We should mobilise that the coming municipal and mining strikes and other sectors, take the form of occupation rather than stayaways.

 

Many workers have been shot by the police, at least 6 were hospitalised. Chevron, Total, BP,and other oil companies have organised their own fascistic private security to bash the workers. The ANC has threatened to send in the army to break the strike. The ANC is already working with the FBI and CIA to train the new militarized police. This immediately raises the question of self-defence committees, workers militias, as part of every strike from now onwards- we need to mobilise the rank and file soldiers to refuse to be used against the masses and indeed to join the work of self-defence of the strikes. We all remember how the military police was used to bash the peaceful march of the soldiers, a thousand of whom until today are not back at work.  We are not only fighting local capital but imperialism too.

 

The ANC and SACP-controlled National Youth Development Agency has blamed the strikes for being a threat to jobs. Thus they act as the voice of big capital to threaten the workers. But the question is, who is feeding the unemployed? The government? Big business? NO. It is the employed worker who is feeding the unemployed. Only 4 million of the 12 million workers are unionised. And only 12 million of the 33 million people of working age are employed. This is even more reason for employed and unemployed to unite. Up to now the unemployed have been abandoned to fight on their own, mostly in the housing and services protests- yet these issues are the same that face the entire working class and impoverished masses.

 

Instead of using Mayday for uniting the struggles and preparing for a general strike, the Cosatu leaders turned the rallies into a election platform for the ANC. The municipal workers were going to go on strike before the 18th May elections. The Cosatu leaders called them in- the ANC accused the workers of holding them hostage before the elections. The ANC leaders promised to address workers demands. After the elections the Vice President, Motlanthe, addressed the Samwu members, brushing them aside and accusing them of side-stepping Salga (the local government negotiations agency). But Salga is controlled by the ANC, so the ANC-SACP leaders (Motlanthe is a member of the SACP too), were clearly the ones who were holding the workers to ransom before the elections, only now to kick them in the teeth. The Cosatu leaders say that workers must remain in alliance with these capitalist agents!

 

Big capital are the main ones using casualization and labour brokers, yet the Cosatu leaders protect them by leaving each sector of workers to fight on their own on a struggle that exists in all sectors. Cosatu should have organised a general strike against labour brokers but already they are going back on workers demands- the Numsa agreement accepts labour brokers with conditions- this is an open betrayal of the demands of the working class.

 

White workers, the base of Fedusa, Uasa and Solidarity, are increasingly showing, against their own reactionary leaders, their willingness to fight. Such unity in action should be further encouraged.

 

For the new sectors coming out on strike now, do not trust your leaders, be they from Cosatu or ‘independent’ unions. These leaders will not prepare properly for the strikes, they will try to demoralise and divide you. Set up strike committees that unite workers irrespective of union affiliation or whether part of the union or not. Demand rank and file delegates from all regions to be part of the negotiations. Prepare to occupy your workplaces, prepare workers self-defence. March to the Cosatu and other union offices to demand solidarity strike action- the entire working class is facing the same problem of low wages, casualization, high prices and poor service delivery. If the bosses do not meet the demands of the chemical and paper sectors, immediate preparation should be made for solidarity strikes in all sectors, opening the way for a General strike.

 

We urgently need to call a Workers Summit with delegates from every workplace, based on factory committees, farm committees, committees of rural workers, irrespective if workers are permanent or casual, local or immigrant, with delegates from students, unemployed, from the rank and file of the soldiers, to prepare the way for a General strike, unifying our demands against the capitalist state and the capitalist class and the imperialist masters. The ‘living wage campaign’ agreed to by the June Cosatu Central Committee is deliberately designed to only have isolated pickets and symbolic actions, which do not threaten big capital at all, which turns the workers eyes to parliament, the very institution which has passed law after law and endorsed policies which not only rob the masses every day but which prepares further police-state measures to smash the coming revolution. In countries like Egypt, Algeria, etc action that united the masses that challenged the very system itself, has brought down the food prices and has brought some advances. But even these are only temporary gains. To make our gains permanent we need a change of system. Capitalism has failed. We need to draw the lessons from Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Malawi, that imperialism will be brutal in imposing hardships on the masses, shooting us down if necessary. We need to be prepared. The SACP leaders play a vanguard role on behalf of big capital against the masses. We need a new revolutionary working class  party. We need a new leadership in Cosatu. We need a Cosatu that breaks with the government and big capital- and thus breaks with the ANC and SACP. We need to kick out the current leadership of Cosatu and other union bureaucracies. We call for the formation of a workers faction in all unions and all workplaces, which fights for a Workers Summit and preparation for a General Strike, for the immediate changing of the leadership of the unions, breaking from the government and government structures, breaking from the capitalists, centred on expropriation of the capitalist class and all imperialist assets and banks, without compensation, placing these under workers control, sharing all work among all who can work, based also on other demands raised by the workers and the masses at the Workers Summit, breaking from the SACP and taking up the call for a revolutionary working class party. 

 

A General Strike in South Africa can show the way for the working class in the entire region, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, it can finally give support to the masses in Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola, etc.

This is the way to give real solidarity to the Palestinians, to cut off the diamond, coal, gold, missile propellants, aircraft parts and other supplies to Israel. The spark in South Africa can link up with struggles in the UK, USA, Greece, etc. For a committee of revolutionary Trotskyists and revolutionary workers organizations to refound the Fourth International. Forward to Socialism. Issued by Workers International Vanguard League