Workers must brace themselves for the unholy alliance of right-wing forces in the GNU

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola writes about the nightmare GNU scenario for the working class inSouth Africa.

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola writes about the nightmare GNU scenario for the working class inSouth Africa.

Published Jun 18, 2024


Workers and their families should prepare themselves for a tumultuous future now that the coalition of the right has been cemented through the Government of National Unity, made up of the DA, ANC, the IFP, GOOD, and the Patriotic Alliance.

This turn of events is not anomalous. To quote Sandile Makeba who posted on X, “South Africa has become the first African country to be recolonised in Africa”.

And what is worse, is they handed power back to the right-wing white minority, and they did it without even so much as a whimper.

There is a global shift rightwards in many countries, and South Africa is no exception.

By way of example, no less than the US, the paragon of liberal democracy, has seen a drastic shift to the right.

Joe Biden, a Democrat, and supposed centrist, recently signed into law drastic immigration policies that according to CNN, “Plan to all but shut down the US border to asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally uses executive authority Trump once used to bar people from mostly Muslim countries from entering the US in 2017 and also to bar most asylum-seekers in 2018..”

Such a position would have been unthinkable in the pre-Trump era. But today, it signifies in no small manner, a real and tangible step to the right by a so-called ‘leftist’ Democratic party.

This is in order to outflank the Republican conservatives, who themselves have moved far right.

The politicians are simply following their voters, who in Western democracies are shifting to the far right due to failed neo-liberal economic policies.

US President Joe Biden’s unwavering support for the fascist Israeli government, has seen the US funneling billions of dollars in aid to Israel so that it can continue to fund its deadly genocide against Palestinians.

This move has justifiably led to hundreds of daily protests against him, and he has been unable to shake off the nickname, ‘Genocide Joe’, which demonstrates the loss of support amongst the working class in America, so much so, that many polls have predicted that if elections were to take place today, he may lose to Trump.

Biden has ironically exposed the lie of the Democrats being progressive. If Genocide Joe is perceived to be a monster, then the masses will turn to Trump, whose policies are even worse and America will entrench itself as the right-wing superpower of the West.

The ANC’s rightward drift

The recent EU parliamentary elections demonstrated this phenomenon through the sizable number of extreme right parties that will now be represented in the structure.

It becomes patently clear that for Western democracies, what once was the right is now centre. And if the current trajectory holds, today’s extreme reactionary positions will gradually move to the centre and become more mainstream.

The ANC, which has been in power since 1994, lost power because it rejected the demands of the Freedom Charter, and doggedly stuck to the gospel of the same failed neo-liberal economic policies.

The former ruling party has been stubborn to consider progressive economic policy, even in the face of wartime levels of joblessness, debilitating poverty, governing the world’s most unequal society, and a humbling electoral loss.

Instead, Ramaphosa’s ANC has doubled down on fiscal conservatism, broadly implementing austerity in all spheres of the state.

Not a single part of government has been spared, including the Independent Electoral Commission, which had major resource related issues, as a result of budget cuts caused by crippling austerity, and this hampered its ability to run the elections.

Service delivery has taken a back seat, as the state cuts spending to please the markets.

These cuts have had a huge impact on workers and their families. Public healthcare services, on which working families rely, have been particularly hard hit. Shortages abound, both in staff and materials.

This has resulted in a badly performing public healthcare sector that is unable to adequately service vulnerable members of society.

Ramageddon for workers rights

Ramaphosa’s ANC has been vicious in attacking the rights of workers, and in the process seeking to upend a labour regime that was formed through the sacrifices of many black workers during the struggle against Apartheid.

It was Ramaphosa’s ANC government, that for the first time since 1994, reneged on a signed wage agreement with public sector workers in 2022.

This was a fundamental break in trust and it sent a message to the corporate sector that they can undermine centralized bargaining.

After seeing how easy it was to renege on a signed wage bill, the DA in the City of Tshwane, did the same. They staunchly refused to implement a wage deal that was legal and binding with trade union SAMWU and other unions in July 2023.

What has ensued after, has been a wide scale purging of union leaders and agitators through mass dismissals and arrest, and this has resulted in a total collapse of service delivery. The City of Tshwane today is a shadow of what it used to be.

Today, COSATU and even the SACP have endorsed the coalition between the DA and ANC, and they have done so without even a whimper.

This is a historical act of betrayal and class self-sabotage which will be felt for generations to come.

It has become patently clear that workers and their families are on their own and they are in for a very tough time.

In addition to deliberately weakening the labour regime, the DA, seeks to eliminate the national minimum wage, loosen the regulations of the Labour Relations Act, and to eliminate employment equity, affirmative action and other policies of redress.

In Enoch Gondogwana, the former finance minister, the DA found a willing and able partner.

More conservative than former Finance Minister and Reserve Bank governor, Tito Mboweni, and willing to drive up the cost of living for millions of South Africans in order to create a capitalist dystopia that mimics the UK, Gondongwana has already set in motion the privatisation of rail and electricity.

And once the unholy alliance with the DA gets going, expect water to join the list of public utilities that will be privatised.

This portends an even higher increase in the cost of living for most workers and their families. It will further entrench poverty and increase inequality.

The Tories, in the UK, who have been in power for 15 years, are facing electoral doom because of the failure of the same neo-liberal policies.

They have driven up the cost of living to historic levels. This has resulted in food insecurity (a neo-liberal code word for hunger) for millions of workers and their families. The UK is a member of the G7, and a shining example of a capitalist economy, yet according to The Guardian,

“In June 2023, the latest tracker, 9 million adults in the UK, 17% of households, experienced moderate or severe food insecurity (a massive rise from 7.3% in June 2021). Nearly a quarter of households with children experienced food insecurity.”

In addition to an increase in poverty and inequality, workers should prepare themselves for more cuts in every aspect of government services once this doomsday alliance takes power.

Workers should prepare for an erosion of all the gains made since 1994, in protecting their rights, and an immediate stop of all programs that seek to redress the impact of the crime of apartheid.

Workers should also prepare themselves for repression. The unholy alliance will resort to apartheid style tactics to silence workers and repress the strikes that will inevitably become commonplace.

Expect the right to strike to come under further attack, which will be a continuation of the ANC of Ramaphosa and its attempts to weaken the right to strike and ultimately remove it.

The new government will purge worker leaders from their workplaces, and jail them where they can, just as they have in Tshwane.

This will be done in order to weaken labour, and remove it as a viable threat to neo-liberal hegemony.

The time to organise is now

But there is a silver lining. As the unholy right-wing alliance takes office, it opens space for the working class to unite and organise.

The working class are by far the biggest voting bloc in South Africa. The shift to the right and the harsh consequences that will follow will prove to be the catalyst that sparks the formation of a worker led movement that will hopefully lead to the true emancipation of the South African economy from failing neo-liberalist policies.

The silver lining is that this coalition brings an end to decades of deliberate confusion sown by the SACP and COSATU regarding the so-called worker friendly policies of the ANC.

By endorsing the butchers of the working class to lead society, the line is firmly drawn in the sand.

There can be no more confusion. Either you are right-wing and driving an agenda to further enrich the billionaire class, or you are on the left, and promoting policies of shared wealth for the majority of people. There is no middle ground.

What workers must now do is to organise, conscientise and raise the levels of political education amongst themselves and society in general.

The conversation about an alternative to this impending backward regime must start in earnest. Worker-led organisations must, as a matter of urgency, present alternative and meaningful solutions to the myriad problems that face workers and their families.

A historic opportunity has presented itself, and failure to exploit it, will be unforgivable.

In the end, unity of the working class is not a mere slogan. It is a collective force that can break the chains binding workers and pave the way toward a more just and equitable society.

* Phakamile Hlubi-Majola is a socialist and former journalist. She writes in her personal capacity.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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