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The recent developments in the ranks of ANC ally Cosatu need thorough political evaluation – necessary political work for those of us currently part of the EFF, writes Floyd Shivambu.
Johannesburg - The recent developments in the ranks of ANC ally Cosatu need thorough political evaluation – necessary political work for those of us currently part of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
The more cautious would not venture into an analysis of a workers’ movement for fear of what the future might bring, in particular possible alliances between EFF and sections of workers organised under the umbrella of Cosatu. But because we carry a revolutionary obligation to provide ideological and political leadership for the whole of society, particularly for the struggles of the working class, we should give this analysis not for its own sake, but to give strategic advice to workers.
Cosatu unions, particularly the industrial working class organised by the revolutionary and ideologically steadfast National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), should appreciate that their struggle is a correct one. The tactical, necessary alliance between the ANC and Cosatu in the 1980s happened because workers were made to believe that the ANC carried a revolutionary programme, the Freedom Charter, and would position the working class as the leading driver of change in the transition from colonial apartheid capitalism to the post-apartheid system, which for political convenience was vaguely defined.
Numsa’s internal discussion about this route was genuine and reflected the ideological steadfastness and maturity which defines the current leadership, but led to the banishment and isolation of its leaders, particularly former president Maxwell Xulu, who was accused of being an apartheid spy. The disinformation was planted by the ANC security department, which ensured he was expelled from Numsa although tangible evidence was never provided. Xulu correctly argued then that an alliance with a government in waiting, whose commitment to socialism was non-existent, would compromise the workers’ movement in the future. Inspired by many factors, particularly subjective interests and aspirations for upward mobility; the dominant faction successfully isolated Xulu and the left in Numsa.
More than 20 years later, Xulu’s observations have proved to be correct and are reflected in the conflicts and internal divisions of Cosatu and its irreconcilable contradictions with the ANC. Cosatu is supposed to represent the working class, and the ANC is not just administering the state on behalf of Capital, but using its cohesive capacity to suppress real struggles of workers on the factory floor.
There is currently nothing revolutionary about the ANC and there will never be anything revolutionary about it due to the embedded corruption, patronage networks and the drive for self-enrichment which has found permanent residence within its ranks, at all levels. Many ANC leaders have accepted bribes, diverted government resources for self enrichment, abused their positions of responsibility to dispense patronage or committed all the sins of incumbency that define liberation movements in political office.
These were foreseeable features, but the ones which even in liberal logic are unforgivable sins, are the extreme-right policy positions and postures the ANC has adopted through the National Development Plan. Trade liberalisation, the abolishing of exchange control, the introduction of neo-liberal user-pay mechanisms for public goods such as roads, and loosening of any possibility to protect workers’ rights through the labour broker system are but the sins which no revolutionary leader proudly associates with.
The consequences of all these will lead to continued deindustrialisation of the South African economy, meaning that more workers will lose their jobs.
Numsa is correct to expose all these sins. Numsa’s growth can fairly be attributed to its steadfastness, and this is reflected in the desire of members of other unions wanting to join Numsa.
Now, it would be foolhardy, reactionary, counter-revolutionary and plainly preposterous for Numsa to spend workers’ money and energy campaigning for the ANC in the 2014 general elections. This would mean that a union which claims to be anti-labour brokers, anti-e-tolls, anti-capitalism is campaigning for all these. No sane individual would take seriously any union which says workers should vote for chains, permanent job losses, and general corruption.
There is no doubt that most of the issues around general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi are political machinations of the dominant factions in the ANC and SACP. Numsa should use its political and ideological tools of analysis to decide a long overdue disassociation from the neo-liberal, capitalist, right- wing and reactionary ANC. Numsa should do so before it is incapacitated by sponsored divisions.
A natural future ally of all revolutionary and radical trade unions will be the EFF, because our founding, non-negotiable principles coincide with those of Numsa. EFF, like Numsa, is fighting for nationalisation of mines, building of state capacity and, most importantly, protected industrial development. EFF is not conceited in its view of society, and will always associate with and work with all revolutionary formations. In workplaces where unions are openly reactionary, EFF will unashamedly launch radical and militant workers’ unions which will fight for the interests of workers, not for the promotion of union leaders into the ANC, and then government.
The political and ideological observations Numsa made are grounds enough for an alternate route to socialism – not through the National Development Plan and certainly not through a multi-class directionless ANC. The inherent contradictions that define the status quo should be eliminated and class action pursued to emancipate a class, not individuals.
Narrow prejudices and perceptions about what the alternate route represents should never become stumbling blocks to the revolution. We all have nothing to lose, but our chains.
Shivambu is EFF Commissar for Political Education, Policy and Research
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.
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