Yet another trade union federation - a step by the Numsa leaders to prevent/water down/delay a  new workers’ party?


Numsa leaders have announced moves to launch a new trade union Federation by the 1st May 2016. This is supposed to include some of the 9 affiliates of Cosatu who have stood by Numsa in its fight against expulsion from the federation, as well as some other independent unions.


Capitalism is entrenched as a world system and needs to be boldly and creatively resisted on the ground and on a national and international level. This requires the development  of grassroots, worker-controlled organs of resistance as well as the development of a revolutionary working class party on local and international scale.


Thus, we may pose the fundamental question is why we as Socialists are involved in the unions? Are we there to build big unions and only defend the immediate interests of the workers? Or are we there to help defend the immediate interests of the working class, while helping to prepare the grounds for the advance to Socialism?


The past 20 years (as indeed the entire history of the trade unions) has shown on a global scale as well as locally, that it is impossible for unions, on their own, to even defend the most basic interests of the working class; structural unemployment has risen, while real wages and conditions have worsened. In 2007-8 millions of workers lost their jobs- the unions were powerless to stop this.


We argue that not only will the formation of a new Numsa-led federation weaken the workers’ movement, but more crucially, will neutralise the political revolt that began with the Marikana mineworker uprisings in 2012 and 2013, continued with the Numsa Special Congress in 2013, the farm workers revolts and recently the feesmustfall student-worker movement. What was a revolt that has broken out against the capitalist system, will once again be directed onto purely economic grounds, in this case, in a worker against worker contest in a numbers game of big union chauvinism, instead of class struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. The masses have come to realize that each of the components of the alliance, on their own and together, the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu, do not represent workers’ interest and that it is necessary for a new workers party, a party of Socialist revolution, is required. Crucial in the diversion away from this political conclusion, is the role of the Numsa leadership in building of a trade union federation rather than the focused and immediate building of a revolutionary working class party, so crucial in the advance to Socialism.

An overview of the trade union movement in South Africa today


According to the Dept of Labour, 1 Feb 2015, there are 23 labour federations in South Africa. The biggest are Cosatu, Fedusa, Consawu and Nactu. By the second quarter of 2015, there were only 3.7 million trade union members of a total number of employed people of 15.7 million This is a 23.6% unionisation rate. When we consider that 36 million are of the age 15-64 then the unionisation is at about 10%. Despite this, leadership of revolutionary uprisings have always been in the hands of a revolutionary vanguard, who step to the front and gives decisive leadership.


Cosatu, formed in 1985, is by far the biggest federation, with over 1.8 million members being claimed. Ideologically, Cosatu is controlled by the SACP, although their membership  and even that of the ANC, are only a fraction of the total membership. Mostly made up of public sector unions. Affiliated to the reformist ITUC and ICFTU (CIA-controlled) as well as the stalinist WFTU (World Federation of trade unions). Its industrial worker base has been weakened, partly, through retrenchments (Clothing), through expulsions (Numsa) and through splits (Chemical, transport, mining).


Achieved ideological control by SACP through battles with the left in many unions; the most notable was the deliberate split of CCAWUSA, the creation of a smaller, identical union, which was recognised by Cosatu leaders just because it supported the Freedom Charter. The official CCAWUSA supported a Workers’ Charter. The official affiliate was beaten into submission.  By 1990, Cosatu adopted, formally, its alliance with the ANC and SACP.


The period from 1985 to 1994 was marked by the SACP striving to turn every mass action, every general strike, into a pressure tool for a negotiated settlement so that the ANC would assume political power on a capitalist basis. Since 1994, the SACP has strived to limit and curtail every movement of the masses so that the ANC remains in power. They have posed left but only in order to remain at the head of the masses. The many attempts, since 1994, to promote a political break from the SACP and ANC have been met with expulsions.


Cosatu, despite its posture of independence, is the most integrated into the capitalist state, having provided a steady stream of Cabinet Ministers since 1994 up to now. Besides the ANC, the SACP has also provided a steady stream of Ministers and recently its current General Secretary is also Minister of Higher Education. Each affiliate of Cosatu has a network of SACP members who report to the state on activities and activists in the union. The imperialists have been allowed to impose their attacks on the masses, except for the occasional symbolic actions (1 day strikes). GEAR, New Growth Path, and now the NDP, all plans of imperialism, have been implemented, with minor changes, thanks to the SACP holding back the organised masses in Cosatu. Virtually every general strike from 1985 to date has been spearheaded by Cosatu, even though the number of general strikes have been reduced drastically since 1994. More crucially, these strikes have been driven by the masses and curtailed and shortened by the SACP.


Nactu was formed in 1986 from the merger of Azactu and Cusa, both black consciousness-aligned unions. In 1990, adopted a resolution to not affiliate to any party; believes in workers’ control. Has benefitted from splits from Cosatu in mining (Amcu) and the transport sector (NTM). Claims membership of 397 000. Has a history of co-operation with Cosatu in general strikes; participated in the 1988 workers summits and the general strikes to stop the labour law amendments. In recent years have not participated in any general strikes called (has always acted with Cosatu in general strikes in the past and has never initiated any general strike of its members).  Has a resolution that union leaders cannot be leaders of political parties although they can openly belong to any party.


Fedusa, the second biggest federation, with 556 000 members, formed in 1997, made up of former white worker unions, conservative banking and teacher unions, among others. They are nominally independent but are tied into the state structures through Nedlac. Fedusa has never initiated any general strike of its members on any issue.


Consawu it made up of many splinter unions. Some having split off from Cosatu and Nactu. Nominally independent. Believes workers’ rights can be achieved by reforming capitalism. Claims a membership of 290 000. Includes ex-white union, Solidarity and some maoist leaning unions. Includes Nupsaw, Nacbawu, Fedcraw, etc. Claims to be political but not aligned to the state nor any party. Has never organised any general strike of its members on any issue. Is an affiliate of the reformist ITUC and World Confederation of Labour (WCL).


The struggle for Socialism requires a struggle for workers’ unity in action


Let us turn to the Fourth Congress of the Third International, the thesis on Communist work in trade unions:


Despite the fierce anti-Communist witch-hunts being stirred up everywhere by the reformists, we must continue to fight for the slogan of the Communist International – against the splitting of the trade unions – with the same militancy with which we have fought for it up till now. The reformists are trying to use expulsions to provoke a split. Their aim in systematically driving the best elements out of the unions is to make the Communists lose their patience and nerve, so that instead of completing their carefully thought-out plan to win the trade unions from within, the Communists will leave the unions and come out in favour of a split.’ (Comintern, 1921).


Among, the most class conscious working class activists, in recent times, have been located in Numsa. The 2013 Numsa Special Congress made a call for Cosatu to break its alliance with the ANC and SACP and to take steps towards the establishment of a workers’ party. The expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu was a calculated move by the ANC and SACP to drive out the most critical and class conscious workers from the ranks of the federation This was in order to keep Cosatu under the control of the ANC and SACP. Indeed, without Cosatu, the ANC and SACP would collapse overnight. The expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu was to prevent the development of a new working class party which would have taken Cosatu as its base. The 2013 Numsa Congress did not call for a new federation to be formed. The current leadership of Numsa have fallen into the trap set by the Stalinists and instead, of continuing to fight for reunification of the federation, are now calling for the workers to split from Cosatu This is a serious mistake as it splits the activists who are fighting for a workers’ party, besides actually weakening the union structures. It buries the workers’ drive for a revolutionary party as a fraction of the revolutionaries are left in Numsa, while another fraction of the revolutionaries are in the remainder of Cosatu (and in other workers’ organizations outside of Cosatu itself).


Let us remind ourselves of the words of Lenin in his work Left Wing Communism- An Infantile Disorder, where he discusses the question whether revolutionaries should work in reactionary unions:


Yet it is this very absurdity that the German “Left” Communists perpetrate when, because of the reactionary and counter-revolutionary character of the trade union top leadership, they jump to the conclusion that . . . we must withdraw from the trade unions, refuse to work in them, and create new and artificial forms of labour organisation! This is so unpardonable a blunder that it is tantamount to the greatest service Communists could render the bourgeoisie….To refuse to work in the reactionary trade unions means leaving the insufficiently developed or backward masses of workers under the influence of the reactionary leaders, the agents of the bourgeoisie, the labour aristocrats, or “workers who have become completely bourgeois”.’


In essence, what it comes down to, is that to abandon Cosatu because of the reactionary nature of its leadership, is to leave a huge mass of workers under their leadership, thereby doing a great service to the capitalist class. It is necessary to have revolutionary presence in all unions so that the constant work towards workers’ unity in action and against the capitalist system, is sustained. What is necessary is uniting of all the activists from all workers and youth organizations into a single fighting, working class party. Splitting Cosatu and setting up yet another federation not only splits and weakens the vanguard, but turns the political thrust away from a political challenge to the system to fighting over reforms within the capitalist system.


The lessons of the Marikana uprising and the subsequent miner strikes show that workers formed independent committees across union affiliation. In fact these workers committees united workers from the community as well as the workplace Union affiliation was irrelevant.  The farm workers revolt set up independent committees as well. Union structures were totally inadequate for the struggles. Similarly, in 2015, the student-worker structures that were set up at universities rejected domination by any party - they set up direct action committees that challenged the state. For years, the trade unions, on their own, could not decisively challenge labour broking. It was only when the unity of students and workers threatened the very existence of the state, that a body blow was given against labour broking at universities. Such advance is now starting to spread across the country and into other sectors. It is even reverberating internationally.


It follows from this that what the moment requires is not a new federation but direction-action workers’ committees, irrespective of which federation or union or political party the worker belongs to. In fact the new form of action committee, namely of worker-student, or even worker-student-parent should be considered. Committees of action, unity in struggle is what is required. This is not to say that work in unions have become irrelevant. No Work in unions is still necessary but in order to promote unity in action of the working class. This fight, of necessity, brings activists into conflict with the leaders, who want to limit struggles only to reforms within the system and who want to control union structures for the self-interest and/or for the interest of the bosses.


The intention by all the union federations, even though they chauvinistically refused to form one action united front, to oppose the providend fund amendments, is what forced the state to back down and postpone its implementation. This mass action would have been supported by the broader masses, including the youth. This shows what is possible, if the working class formations were to jointly draft a programme of demands and set in motion an action plan to achieve these. The character of the mineworker, farm worker and worker-student uprisings were political, that is why they achieved a great step forward. The essence of capitalist relations were placed under threat. The masses are signalling that they want total system change. For total system change, a decisive group of the activists need to be united in struggle. This can have no other meaning than the establishment of a new revolutionary working class party.


Thus as a start, instead of calling for a new splinter federation, the call should be to work towards the formation of a united federation of all unions, both locally and internationally. Side by side with this, should be a call for the drafting of a common programme of action and the setting up of joint worker committees at every workplace, every school, every university and in every working class community, irrespective of party or union affiliation. Even if such a call does not meet with immediate success, it will show to the masses who is for workers’ unity and who is for split of the masses in the face of the attacks by the capitalist class. Indeed the 2013 Numsa Congress resolution called for community struggles to be on every agenda of every structure. These broader action committees are in line with this decision. Neither the Cosatu nor Numsa leaders are basing their structures on general meetings at ground level. They are quite happy if the general meetings do not take place as it allows greater freedom to the leaders who control the top structures of the union. The United Front structures that have been initiated by Numsa have not been driven by shopfloor general meetings as an organised unit of the base.  Thus the rebuilding of the workers’ movement has to be grounded not only on a programme of class struggle but should be based on regular general meetings at plant, mine and farm level and at community level.


Currently, it is only Numsa that has been expelled from Cosatu The other unions should be directed to stay inside Cosatu so that they can continue to push from within, for joint actions with Numsa and other unions and federations outside of Cosatu. Then it will, over time, become clearer to the masses, who is for unity and who is for splitting the working class.


That many officials have been expelled from Samwu is no excuse for setting up Demawusa. The building of Demawusa is based on taking members from Samwu. Thus, instead of 2 unions in the municipal sector, there will now be 3. This can only weaken the workers in the face of the attacks from the state in terms of privatization, casualisation, etc. Demawusa would take away the very members from Sawmu who have seen through the tricks of the bureaucracy, thus the left in Samwu would be weakened and indeed the grip of the ANC and SACP over the apparatus would be strengthened. The principled position would be to continue to build ‘ Save our Samwu’, continue to expose the bureaucracy and the politics behind their positions, while calling for the reinstatement of those who have been expelled and at the same time, for the removal of the current leadership.  There should also be a concerted effort to work towards the unification of Imatu and Samwu. The best way would be to set up joint worker committees at every depot, while linking with the surrounding community, for a joint plan of action in support of workers’ demands. The bureaucracies of both unions would be further exposed in this way while the activists in either union would be strengthened by the joint work.  Lenin’s comments on work in reactionary unions are once again relevant.


There are many workers who are in Nehawu and other unions whose leadership is dominated by ANC and SACP, who support the breaking of the alliance. By directing unions to stay in Cosatu will strengthen those who are fighting the leadership. By calling for a new federation, you are asking for these unions to be split; you are taking out of Cosatu the very critical element that has seen through the nature of the leadership; you are weakening the fight against the bureaucracy and indeed you are strengthening the hold of the ANC and SACP over what remains of Cosatu, which is still quite substantial. Even further, by creating a 5th large federation you will be splitting the working class even further. The capitalist class will surely make use of such weakening of the organizations of the working class by intensifying their attacks on us.


To quote that in order for a new baby to be born that the predecessor must die, is blatant opportunism  No child wishes for her parent to die giving birth to her. To say that your birth is dependent on the death of the parent, is to reduce the struggle to a fight for membership. Yet the same leaders, who have been in Cosatu all these years, can offer nothing different. You claim that you offer something new but your past history in Cosatu shows that you were no different from the Cosatu leaders. During the 2012 Cosatu Congress, which happened after the Marikana massacre, the Numsa leaders joined the rest of the bureaucracy in condemning the strike leaders as thugs.  How can you say that you will offer anything more when your programme is the same Freedom Charter that Cosatu, the ANC and SACP claims to be fighting for???


The only ones who will benefit from this split will be the capitalist class, who will now see worker fighting worker, instead of the capitalist class and that the attempt by Numsa workers in 2013 to set up a new workers’ party, will be buried. Thus the new federation, whether it likes it or not, leads to a strengthening of big capital They are sure to accelerate their attacks on the masses in these conditions.


In fact the call should be for all 4 federations (Cosatu, Nactu, Fedusa and Consawu) as well as independent unions outside of them, to unite; one country, one federation, which should also push for all the international federations to unite into one, on a common programme


At the same time, there should be a call for workers committees in every workplace, every mine, every farm and every community, which should be based on at least weekly general meetings; these should be committees of action which unite the workers irrespective of union affiliation or party affiliation. As we pointed out above, these action committees should be extended to unite with students at school and university level. It is through active working together that the role of the union bureaucracy will further exposed.  


These committees have historical precedent in SA in the 1980’s when workers’ locals, street and block committees formed the basis of the resistance against the apartheid state even at the time that all UDF structures had been smashed by the state.


The need for a revolutionary programme


Although the UDF structures were smashed in the state of emergency, its political programme still dominated Cosatu. Thus, even though Cosatu structures and the block and street committees were independent, they were strangled by the political programme of the Freedom Charter. This is a deliberately vague programme that places the working class on the same level as the black middle class, both united as ‘the people’. The past 22 years of  ‘the people’ shall govern, has shown that the black middle class and black capitalist class is not only governing in its own interest but acts as the executor of monopoly capital, the imperialists, who are really in control


Thus it is not only important to develop independent working class structures but the programme of struggle is decisive. Such a programme of struggle should be developed by all Socialist revolutionaries as the basis for the setting up of the revolutionary working class party.


The development of such a revolutionary programme should be a central component of our immediate tasks. This programme is necessary as a first step to set up the required revolutionary working class party. If workers’  summits are going to be called, they should be open to all workers, community organizations and the revolutionary youth and can be used to gather workers’ demands that could be incorporated into such a programme.


The 2013 Numsa Congress resolution on the Alliance talks about the Freedom Charter as a minimum programme. In other words, the aim of Numsa should be only reforms within the capitalist system. The past 22 years of the ANC and the Freedom Charter has meant nothing to the Numsa leaders. They insist the same old tired formula of the SACP, that workers must unite with black capital, with the black middle class to achieve democratic demands. The past 22 years have shown that the alliance with the black capitalist class and the black middle class in incapable of achieving any single democratic demand. The break from the alliance in 2012 on the mines, in 2013 on the farms and in 2015 at the universities, points to the fact that only when workers act independently, as a class, and supported by the revolutionary youth, that they can begin to achieve their democratic aspirations.


Thus, if this is generalised, then only the working class taking power into its own hands, supported by the revolutionary youth, can the democratic aspirations of the masses be attained, can the minimum programme be achieved. Thus the working class needs to take power, seizing the means of production and taking direct control into its own hands if it is merely to complete the democratic programme. Once the working class has taken power into its own hands it will not stop at completion of democratic demands but will be able to begin taking steps towards Socialism. In this sense, workers’ power develops towards Socialism in a continuous step. This workers’ power begins the path to Socialist construction, which can only start to take root on an international scale. Thus the question is not only of workers taking power in one country but in a co-ordinated manner in the semi-colonies and in the imperialist centres. This is not the programme of the Numsa leaders, who still cling to the nationalist, reformist Freedom Charter. Thus their programme can be best described as the programme of the ANC and SACP, but without the ANC and SACP.


While the Numsa leaders talk of the Freedom Charter as being the ‘minimum’ programme, they provide no clue as to how to get to Socialism They have no bridge. In other words, just like the SACP, they postpone the attainment of Socialism to the indefinite future. They will fight for reforms of the Freedom Charter and then magically in 100 or 200 years time suddenly Socialism will appear. Thus the programme of the Numsa leaders on Socialism is identical to the SACP, just without the SACP being named.


Thus the programme of the Numsa leaders for a ‘new’ federation, is nothing else but the same as that of Cosatu and the alliance, except that part of the alliance will be around Numsa and the other part will be around Numsa.


Whether the Numsa leaders realise it or not, a new federation will not only split the working class but will smash the vanguard’s attempts to build a revolutionary working class party.


The Fourth International developed a transitional programme, which starts with the workers’ democratic demands and provides a bridge to the attainment of Socialism. Transitional demands are developed from looking at the concrete class struggle and posed so that they lead workers to understand, through struggle, that they need to take power into their own hands. Thus what is needed here is to gather a programme of democratic, transitional and Socialist demands in one programme. Such is the tasks of revolutionaries now.


Examples of transitional demands in South Africa would be the following:


The Constitutional Court ruled on the 31st March 2016 that both the President and parliament flouted democratic values by allowing the President to use public funds for his private home in Nkandla. Thus the calling for the establishment of workers committees and worker-youth parent committees, with the support of the rank and file soldier, to organise mass action to dissolve parliament and to set up a new Constituent Assembly that has no pre-conditions that protect the capitalist class, such as happened at Codesa, is an example of a transitional demand. The masses, in this struggle, will realize that only the organised workers’ committees and their councils of delegates, is capable of forcing the democratic recall of the President and parliament. No other class is capable of enforcing such a basic democratic principle. (see our article on the call for the dissolution of parliament).


These worker-student-parent action committees should also demand the opening of the books of all mines, banks and monopoly industry. This is to expose the large-scale theft by the mines, banks and large commercial farms. They should demand an end to business secrets. The demand for opening the books of all of the banks and industry, not focusing on the bankrupt ones, together with the formation of worker’s committees, begins to lay the basis for workers’ control of production. This would begin to set up an alternate power to the capitalist state. This is an example of a transitional demand.  Thus, the committees should demand workers’ control of the mines, banks, large commercial farms and monopolies. They should also take up directly political campaigns such as the call for prosecution of all the apartheid criminals and the companies who funded the old regime, etc. Other examples of transitional demands are that all work be divided among all who can work, thus striking a blow against unemployment.  Expropriate all the large commercial farms, without compensation, to be placed under workers’ control. Expropriate the mines and banks, without compensation to the capitalists, to be placed under workers’ control.  (We refer the reader to the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International, 1938).


For a struggle for total system change to succeed requires a revolutionary working class party. Thus far, the alliance, some of the left and the capitalist class have succeeded in preventing the development of the working class party that the masses require. By 2012 the working class has placed this party firmly on the agenda. A fraction of the Numsa leadership are now trying to bury the development of this revolutionary working class party.


The movement for a revolutionary working class party and how the Numsa leaders are holding it back:

The capitalist class promotes the non- affiliation of trade unions with any political party. Their real aim to prevent the linking of the organised working class with any genuine revolutionary Communist party. Nactu, Consawu, and Fedusa, despite their glowing words, all place a barrier to the workers’ real intervention into politics- fine, challenge a few laws here and there, but do not challenge the capitalist system, is the message from these 3 federations. Another federation that is not aligned to a workers’ party will do the same, namely only strengthen the hand of the capitalist class by keeping workers out of politics.


It is no accident that more than half the number of unionised members are in Cosatu This is an indication that the most active members of the working class realise the importance of their union being in alliance with a workers’ party.


The 2012 survey, commissioned by Cosatu but suppressed by the leaders, including Vavi, showed that more than 60% of the members of Cosatu wanted to break from support of the ANC and SACP and to build a new working class party. Part of this survey was conducted before the Marikana massacre and part, just after.


In 1993 the Numsa Congress called for a breaking of the alliance with the government and thus from ANC and SACP and for the setting up of a workers party. This resolution faced contestation from the SACP who managed to win clauses that Numsa should build the alliance, in the same resolution.  Thus the resolution was contradictory, which reflected the different trends within Numsa.  At the time Amos Masondo argued:


It is incorrect for us to assume that negative historical examples, where liberation movements have sidelined workers' movements and workers' interests after coming to power, will automatically occur in South Africa. At best this is defeatism, at worst it is an abandonment of the workers' struggle for broad (including political) empowerment.’  (O Malley, 1993)


Is this not exactly what has happened? The past 22 years have shown that Numsa was right, namely that the middle class or even the black middle class, is incapable of meeting the most basic democratic aspirations of the masses, thus it was necessary then to break alliances with the ANC and SACP.  Thus it was necessary for the working class in Cosatu to be allied to an independent working class party, even then.


Masondo goes further:


The NUMSA resolution, if implemented, would reinforce the dissolution of the ANC as a popular organisation connected to the masses.’ (O Malley, 1993)


Well, the alliance has been maintained for 23 years since the Numsa resolution. Numsa stayed in alliance with the ANC for 20 years thereof. The ANC programme is totally one of big capital and not of the masses. The effect of the alliance is to artificially keep the ANC alive, to chain the masses to it, despite it having shown that it never had workers’ interest at heart. Thus the role of the ANC and SACP in Cosatu has openly become to maintain the alliance at all costs. Without it, the ANC and SACP would be nothing. The ANC and SACP need Cosatu as voting cattle to ensure their leaders’ lives of privilege. In fact, the lavish funding of Cosatu by big capital, and the myriad of strings between the Cosatu leaders and the lucrative BEE contracts, are mechanisms that big capital uses to ensure that Cosatu stays within the alliance with the ANC and SACP. The alliance has largely kept the masses off the street from 1994 to 2012, except for the occasional one day strike.  In this time the imperialist programmes of Gear, New Growth path and now the NDP, have all been forced onto the masses, thanks to the alliance of Cosatu with the ANC and SACP. Big capital rules through the alliance.


This is why work within Cosatu is still absolutely necessary, to break the iron grip of big capital and their agents within it, to break the hold of big capital over the advanced elements of the masses. This is also why the ANC and SACP expelled Numsa from Cosatu, no matter that this resulted in a loss of over 300 000 members They would rather have Numsa outside of Cosatu than to have a constant, united force within it that would most likely have won most of Cosatu members over to breaking the alliance with the ANC and SACP


Imagine 2 million workers allied to a revolutionary working class party! The next day, the struggle for workers’ power would begin No, it was better for big capital to have Numsa out and to isolate it, hoping to break it up or to demoralise it as they did with CCAWUSA, years ago. Right up to its 2012 Congress, the Numsa leaders were still arguing that the alliance had to be built and that Numsa members should join the ANC and SACP rather than build an independent workers’ party.


How the SACP has undermined the revolutionary drive of the Numsa members


The Numsa 2013 Special Congress resolution on the Alliance is quite instructive:


1.3. The Freedom Charter, which we understood as the minimum platform and program of the Alliance, has been completely abandoned [our emphasis] in favour of right-wing and neo-liberal policies such as the National Development Plan (NDP).

1.4. There exists little common understanding within the Alliance of the real objectives of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).[our emphasis]

1.5. The Alliance operates and works during election periods and it is our experience that the working class is being used by the leader of the Alliance – the African National Congress (ANC) – as voting fodder.

1.6. The Alliance has been captured and taken over by right-wing forces. Those who are perceived to be against neo-liberalism or to be advocates of policies in favour of the working class and the poor are seen as problematic, isolated or purged.

1.7. Dominant classes in society have swayed the Alliance in their favour.

1.8. The ANC has resisted the reconfiguration of the Alliance into a strategic political centre [our emphasis] where issues of policy, deployments into government and programmes are jointly decided upon by all components of the Alliance.

1.9. The strategy of swelling the ranks has not worked and all resolutions of COSATU congresses in relation to how the Alliance should function have not been implemented by the leaders of the Alliance.

1.10. In practice the Alliance is still in the hands of one alliance partner, the ANC. The ANC is the centre and implements government programmes and policies alone, with little or no consultation with other components of the Alliance.

1.11. There is strong opposition from the ANC to an alliance agreement or pact [our emphasis].’ (Numsa, 2013)

Several of the top leadership of Numsa are SACP members. Thus there has been and still is a tension between the ideology of the SACP of the leaders and the worker base of Numsa. This tension is reflected in the resolution adopted at the Special Congress in 2013


This is why the resolution calls for a break from the SACP and the ANC (reflecting the base) while, as seen from the above quotation from the resolution on the alliance, keeping to the fundamental programmatic positions of the SACP and the ANC (the position of the leaders). This programmatic positions of the SACP and the ANC which are retained are:

  1. Still clinging to the Freedom Charter as the programme

  2. Still clinging to the NDR (National Democratic Revolution)

  3. The alliance of Cosatu, ANC and SACP should be the strategic centre.

  4. The multiclass UDF of the 1980’s which was based on the Freedom Charter, serves as the basis for the setting up of a ‘new’ United Front.


Thus the programme of Numsa could be described as that of the SACP but without the SACP. In other words, there is no fundamental difference between the adopted programme of Numsa in 2013 and that of Cosatu. It comes down to saying that, well, let the alliance get its act together, remove Zuma and put in place measures that allow the alliance as the centre and Numsa leaders would have no problem with accepting Cosatu in alliance with ANC and SACP.


This is the position of the SACP leadership faction within Numsa, as opposed to the rank and file who have broken programmatically from the ANC and SACP. The 2 contradictory trends exist in the same resolution.


The programmatic positions of the leadership of Numsa, which are identical to the SACP, lead to a conscious/unconscious holding back of the movement of the base to set up a fighting alternative to the SACP, namely, the building of a real, revolutionary Communist party.


In the Path to Power (SACP 7th Congress, 1989) the essence of the National Democratic Revolution (which the current Numsa leaders still pay allegiance to) is seen as follows:


‘ In our situation, the unity in action of the oppressed and democratic forces around the basic national democratic demands constitutes the most powerful revolutionary weapon against the ruling class. To weaken this unity by placing the attainment of socialism on the immediate agenda would, in fact, be to postpone the very attainment of socialist transformation.


The demands for national democracy unite the overwhelming majority of strata and sectors

of the oppressed: black workers, the landless rural masses, the intelligentsia, cultural workers, sections of black business, youth, women, religious communities, sports people and others’


In other words, the argument is presented that the working class should not take power on its own. It is argued that the workers’ seizure of power would delay the attainment of Socialism. It is argued that instead of the working class seizure of power, that an alliance with the middle class and black business was the guarantor of advancing the democratic aspirations of the masses. This is why the Numsa leaders still say the problem is white capital not capital. Thus they signal their allegiance with black capital as part of the stage of achieving the democratic demands of the masses. The Marikana massacre leaves no imprint on these people.


The history of the past 22 years have shown, on the contrary, that precisely, the tying of the workers in an alliance with the black middle class and capitalist class is what has postponed the attainment of the most basic demands of even the Freedom Charter, let alone the struggle for Socialism. The Freedom Charter, with its dependence on the multi-class ‘people’, in other words, an alliance between the working class and the middle and capitalist class, stems directly from the NDR conception of the SACP.  Thus, by clinging to the Freedom Charter and the NDR, the SACP and Numsa leaders signal that they will fight tooth and nail to prevent the working class seizure of power. They actively seek out allies among black capital ( as they have identified white capital as the problem- not capital itself). This is why they will do everything in their power to prevent a revolutionary working class party from emerging. This is why the Numsa leaders want to rather turn workers towards a new federation or some vague ‘movement for socialism’ or some electoral coalition or at best some reformist party like that of Chavez that left capitalism in place in Venezuela.


When the mineworkers strikes occurred in 2013, the Numsa structures were not aligned to support it to the end and to bring the broader working class along with it; Numsa leaders kept the Numsa members out of general support for the farm workers strikes and indeed the Numsa members were kept passive during the 2015 student-worker uprising.


In place of grassroots involvement of Numsa members, in its place was set up a UDF-type of United Front structures attended by only some Numsa officials and a handful of workers. The United Front structures are weakened by the absence of mass participation of Numsa members. General meetings of Numsa workers at plant level to discuss the class struggles and political issues, are non-existent. The leaders want to, once again, like the SACP did in the late 1980’s with the UDF, strangle the growing mass movement with the straightjacket of the Freedom Charter, the very programme of the radical black middle class, that has shown itself to be unable to achieve even one democratic demand.


What difference is there between the Numsa leaders and the Cosatu leaders? They both ally themselves to the NDR and the Freedom Charter and thus against the masses. We need to break decisively from the NDR and the Freedom Charter. We reject the formation of yet another federation.


One country, one federation!

For the development of a revolutionary programme of demands that can serve as a basis for the setting up of a revolutionary working class party on national and international level!

For workers committees in every workplace, every mine, every factory, shop, farm and every community of the masses!

For broader action committees of the worker-youth-parent at every school and university!

Forward to working class power!

Forward to Socialism!


31st March 2016


Workers International Vanguard League/Party

1st Floor, Community House, 41 Salt River rd, Salt River, 7925

ph/ sms/whatsApp +27 822020617

We are on facebook as Workers International Vanguard Party- WIVP

email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



References:  (Stats on union membership in SA, 2015) (Third Congress of the Comintern, on the trade unions, 1920) (O Malley Archives on the Numsa 1993 resolution for breaking the alliance and for a workers’ party) (Fourth Congress of the Comintern: Thesis on trade union work, 1921) (Numsa Special Congress resolution, 2013) (The Path to power, SACP, 1989) (Transitional Programme, 1938, Leon Trotsky) (Leftwing Communism- An Infantile Disorder, 1920, Vladimir Lenin) Thesis of the Comintern on the role of the Communist Party Lessons of October - Trotsky

Get Involved

noteDonate to WIVP
noteAbout WIVP
noteJoin WIVP




Follow Us

facebook smallFacebook    twitter smallTwitter

You can email us at 

ph/sms/whatsapp +27 822020617 







Without exception,ALL the parties taking part in the elections,despite their promises, will deliver a future of more unemployment, lower wages, more hardship, more evictions, more homelessness, more exclusion from education, death and destruction through starvation and Aids.

IDLT essential