We respond to the Numsa leaders whose politics is fundamentally the same as that of the ANC and SACP

The Numsa leaders are claiming the leadership of the fight against the pro-capitalist politics of the ANC and SACP. We show that their position is in essence the same as that of the ANC and SACP. Capitalism-imperialism does not allow vacuums, even less do they allow real working class independence. The formation of the PT (Workers Party) in Brazil was to pre-empt the further development of independent working class committees and to contain the existing committees onto a trade union terrain, ie within a capitalist framework.

65% of Cosatu workers support an independent workers party and 70% of Numsa members support an independent party, without it even existing! If it were to exist, the percentage in Numsa and Cosatu, and beyond, that would support it would be closer to 100%. This means, not only the death of the ANC but a mortal blow against capitalist relations not only in SA but also in the whole of Southern Africa. Decisive sectors of the working class would be united in the fight against the handful of capitalists and their agents. Even further, in a world where every capitalist regime is under threat, a truly independent revolutionary working class party would accelerate the development of revolutionary working class parties in the imperialist centres, threatening the entire capitalist system.  Thus, if the capitalists cannot contain the masses within the ANC any longer, they would even support the development of a party like the PT in SA that would once again contain the masses within the capitalist framework. This is where we see the class role of the current Numsa leaders come it, to create a reformist PT in SA, it is the essence of what their ‘Lula moment’ really means, they offer themselves to big capital to play this role to contain the masses for the next 20 years.

What little revolutionism there was of the black middle class up to 1990, has ended

Up to 1990, when the Codesa talks started, the black middle class had an interest in the overthrow of the slave capitalist regime because it was also based on the suppression of the development of a black capitalist and middle class. Once the slave capitalist regime and its imperialist masters started making democratic concessions, to set up a republic which began to incorporate the demands of the black middle class, marked the end of its revolutionism.

This is what Lenin wrote in 1905:

‘The complete victory of the present revolution will be the end of the democratic overturn and the beginning of a decisive struggle for the socialist revolution. A realisation of the demands of the contemporary peasantry, the complete shattering of the reaction, the winning of a democratic republic, will be the complete end of the bourgeoisie, and even of the petty bourgeoisie. It will be the beginning of the real struggle of the proletariat for socialism.’

This is what Trotsky wrote in The History of the Russian Revolution (Appendix II):

‘In 1917 the dictatorship of the proletariat grew out of the non-achievement of the democratic tasks.’

Now, it is quite possible that Lenin and Trotsky were wrong on this point. We have yet to see any proof on this issue. The conduct of the ANC leadership since 1990 through their inability to achieve even a single democratic demand, has been another striking confirmation of the words of Lenin and Trotsky. On the contrary, the Marikana massacre and the role of the ANC uniting with the mining monopolies to shoot down striking workers, is a bloody confirmation of the words of Lenin and Trotsky.

Yet the Numsa leaders argue that what is needed is that the alliance should be the ‘strategic political centre’ and not the ANC on its own. In other words, the Numsa leaders argue that the working class should be in alliance with elements, the black middle class and capitalist class, who have lost all their revolutionism. The alliance of workers with the ANC, that has taken up a stake in the maintenance of capitalist exploitation, is not to control the black capitalist but in reality reduces the working class to the level of hostages of the very ones who have lost all their revolutionism. The Numsa leaders acknowledge that ‘the ANC and perhaps SANCO, represents the bourgeoisie of the Alliance’, yet they argue that an alliance with this same bourgeoisie is necessary. Is an alliance with the ANC going to stop labour brokers, or stop the Secrecy bill, or stop e-tolling, or stop youth slavery? Will it stop more Marikanas? No.

The Numsa leaders insist that their programme for Socialism is the Freedom Charter. This Freedom Charter is based on the ‘people’ shall govern, the ‘people’ shall share, in other words, the very upper middle class white and black, capitalist class, white and black, have their interests enshrined in it. In other words, the Freedom Charter creates the illusion that there are no class differences, but in reality, it places on an equal footing the very classes that have lost their revolutionism, who control the wealth of the land, with those who have nothing, the driving force of the revolution. The past 20 years of the ANC rule has shown that the dominance or dictatorship of the capitalist class has been unable to achieve any single democratic demand. The ‘people’ shall share means that the capitalist has the lion’s share while the masses have crumbs. This is the essence of the Freedom Charter.

Reforming Democracy or overcoming it?

This is what Lenin had to say about capitalist democracy, in his State and Revolution, written in Aug 1917 when there was much confusion about the tasks of overthrowing the democratic government:

‘A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and therefore, once capital has gained control (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tsereletelis and Co) of this very best shell, it establishes its power so securely, so firmly that no change, either of persons, or institutions, or parties in the bourgeois republic can shake it.’   

The Numsa leaders claim that an ‘alliance political cente’ or a change in the top 6 of the ANC, or a change in the reactionaries at the top of the ANC, can open the path to Socialism. One of the options of the Numsa leaders is to set up a new workers party to contest elections. Even the programme of the Numsa leaders does not address the question of the trillions stolen through transfer pricing, does not address the massive subsidy that the motor sector bosses receive, does not even provide a solution to the massive unemployment.

Lenin answers the Numsa leaders decisively, none of their proposed changes go far enough to shake the foundation of the capitalist democracy. The past 20 years has shown through, the Polokwane and Mangaung conferences that capitalism has not been shaken but further entrenched. The past 20 years is confirmation that the type of revolutionary working class party we need is not a parliamentary one, but one that unites the working class in mass action outside and against parliament.  

The Numsa leaders argue that the Rand should be devalued, etc. In other words they argue on a nationalist basis, policies that will act in the interest of the local capitalists and in reality act against the working class. If workers earned $1 per hour (R10) and the Rand was devalued to say, R15 to the $, then in Rand terms the value of the workers wage would drop from R10 to R7.50, on an international basis. The Major retailers and monopolies all link their prices to the dollar, so a devaluation of the currency means a massive rise in prices. In 2001 when the Rand devalued to R13 to the dollar, all the main retailers raised their prices, when the currency strengthened, their prices did not come down. A devaluation is a capitalist policy does not strike at the heart of the issue that the means of production are in the hands of monopoly capital and not the working class.

A transitional demand to address unemployment would be to call for all work to divided among all who can work and for the working day to be lowered accordingly, without loss of pay.  Expropriation of the 30 000 large commercial farms, without compensation, under workers control, would have to be essential to address the question of food and land. Such demands are absent from the nationalist, capitalist programme of the Numsa leaders.

What is needed is a series of transitional demands that lead the masses into action, outside and against parliament, to overcome the wage slavery that is inherent in capitalist democracy.

Socialist National Democratic Revolution or Working class power opening the path to the international Socialist Revolution?

Numsa is clear, they stand for the National Democratic Revolution, only they give it a red colouring, ‘Socialist National Democratic revolution’.  This is what Lenin has to say:

‘Not for one minute have we forgotten, nor will we forget the weakness of the Russian working class in comparison with other detachments of the international proletariat….but we must remain at our post until our ally comes, the international proletariat. ‘ …..(May 14 1918 at the Central Executive Committee of the Bolshevik Party)

‘We always staked our play upon an international revolution and this was unconditionally right……….We always emphasised the fact that in one country it is impossible to accomplish such work as a socialist revolution.’  (Speech on 3rd anniversary of the Oct revolution)

‘We have always and repeatedly pointed out to the workers that the underlying chief task and basic condition of our victory is the propagation of the revolution at least to several of the more advanced countries’ (Feb 1921 at the congress of the workers of the needle trades)

Nowhere in the documents of Numsa is there any link between the struggle for Socialism in SA, to the fate of the working class in the region, let alone to that of the working class in the imperialist centres. Such is their break from Leninism precisely because in all fundamentals, their position is politically identical to that of the Stalinist SACP.

The entire world s divided among one or other imperialist powers, there is an international division of labour and the SACP and the Numsa leaders want us to step back in time to build a paradise in one country. Take for example the production of the cell phone: US imperialism backs the war groups in the DRC so that the land in cleared and the mining of cassiterite (the raw material for cellphones) is mined for Anglo American. This is shipped out to China where slave conditions are sustained by both US imperialism and the Chinese Communist party; the cell phones with technology made in the USA, is then shipped around the globe by agencies of imperialist companies and to cellphone companies that are controlled by imperialism. No, although the Numsa leaders rightly criticise the SACP for glorifying the leap back to the ox plough in Cuba, but their solution is not much different, perhaps they prefer workers to pull their own ploughs (labour intensive production). The Numsa proposes that workers reform capital until one day we wake up in a local heaven called national socialism. This is contrasted to what Lenin would have called for, namely that the workers mobilise on the unfulfilled democratic demands, seize power on their own, with the support of the poorer sectors of the lower middle class, and hold power until the masses in DRC, China and the USA take power themselves.

The Nehawu leaders claim that the ‘workerists’ want to jump to Socialism. This is the old Stalinist lie of saying that Trotskyists want to skip stages. What the Nehawu  leaders propose is that workers remain tied to the capitalist ANC, accepting labour brokers, e-tolling, wage slavery, wage restraint, dying early deaths while imperialism continues to strip the region of the wealth. The Nehwau leaders are waiting for the second stage of the transition- this is nothing but a postponement of unifying the workers for the seizure of power, through its own mass action methods, in other words, a shameful capitulation to capitalist violence that is inherent under parliamentary democracy. The creation of the CCMA, the Hawks, the NPA, etc, etc, has not rolled back capitalist exploitation, only entrenched it.

The Way Forward

What is needed is a decisive break from any alliance with the ANC. Further:

·         The calling of a conference of the left to adopt a revolutionary programme which includes democratic , transitional and Socialist demands

·         A break from the nationalist NDR and national Socialism and a return to an internationalist conception of Socialism

·         Such programme to be the basis of the setting up of a revolutionary working class party

·         That the unity of Cosatu be preserved and a campaign waged to remove the leadership in Numsa and the entire Cosatu, who are aligned to the Stalinist NDR and their replacement with an independent revolutionary working class leadership

·         The calling of a workers summit where all unions and all workplaces and committees from working class communities send delegates, to prepare a programme of action against the capitalist imperialist class and their state and for the demands of the working class; the setting up of independent workers committees at every workplace that unites not only all the workers irrespective of unions but also delegates from the communities.

·         The consideration of an electoral tactic only as a means to expose all the parties that are trying to tie the masses to parliament.

WIVP [Workers International Vanguard Party]  www.workersinternational.org.za email workersinternational@gmail.com ph or sms 0822020617

15.12.2003