18/09/2013 by socialistfight
QINA MSEBENZI LABOUR BULLETIN, SEPTEMBER 2013
Cosatu under attack—How Do Revolutionaries Respond?
Qina Msebenzi, Qina! Issued by the Revolutionary Marxist Group
For the past year Cosatu has been under attack from the ANC. The main focus of the attack has been the General Secretary, Zwelenzima Vary, Zwelenzima Vavi. He has been the most influential and popular Cosatu leader in recent times. This has in part been due to Vavi being an outspoken critic of the ANC government for several years and he has been prepared to lead important campaigns such as the living wage and to oppose the existence of labour brokers. In recent times the ANC has been especially unhappy about Cosatu’s campaign against E-tolling. The latest battle is brewing around the ruling party’s economic programme, the National Development Plan, with Vavi and Numsa general secretary, Irvin Jim being the most outspoken against it.
The clear-cut victory by the Jacob Zuma wing of the ANC at the Mangaung Conference set the scene for the concerted attack directed at Cosatu. The government is caught in a vice as it tries to promote economic growth for the country during the continuing global economic crisis. Capitalists’ profits are under pressure due to the crisis and the continued demands from the working class for a decent life. Trade unions continue to defend workers’ conditions and thwart many of the government’s plans for restoring capitalism to higher levels of profitability. It is for these reasons that the ANC is determined to turn Cosatu into a sweetheart federation that is a meek and supportive junior partner in the governance of the country
Hands off Cosatu – No to Cosatu Becoming the ANC’s Sweetheart Union!
Due to the ANC leadership’s intervention the majority of Cosatu unions’ leaders suddenly backed off from expelling Vavi and the Cling Vavi and the Cosatu CEC of 27 – 28 May 2013 declared: “COSATU leadership at the CEC is acutely aware of the dangers of fighting silly small battles against one another when workers continue to face massive economic challenges, mainly as continued dominance of the mining-finance-energy complex that is organised through monopoly companies.” And; “So the CEC meeting focussed on the need to strengthen the unity and cohesion within the Federation and decided to urgently convene its Political Commission (to include all unions Presidents and General Secretaries) to meet on 6 June. This meeting was mandated to prepare for the bilateral meeting with the SACP, the Alliance Economic Summit on 4 – 7 July and the Alliance Summit planned for October.
Very importantly, this special Political Commission was mandated to assess the outcomes of the ANC Mangaung Conference, COSATU’s position on the NDP and take forward the Section 77 notice on economic transformation. Vavi has played into the hands of the Cosatu sweetheart union leaders by having an affair with a subordinate at Cosatu head office. They have now suspended him and the plans are to use this incident to dismiss him. We agree that disciplinary measures against Vavi are appropriate but it does not warrant his dismissal.
The attack on Zwelinzima Vavi is indeed an undisguised political attack by the ANC and SACP. This attack, which was planned for the 11th National Cosatu Congress, was staved off then because of the rank-and-file Cosatu shop stewards support for Vavi and a showdown would have isolated the majority of union leaders who act as the agents of the ruling party within Cosatu. Now in the aftermath in the post-Congress and post-Mangaung period, the reactionary union leaders thought it timely to launch their attack. As the agents of the bourgeois ANC it is clear that they can’t accept any criticism of the ANC’s neo-liberal policies and so Vavi must be removed.
This campaign against Vavi is led by the leadership of the majority of Cosatu unions, particularly the NUM, Nehawu, Popcru and Sadtu. The leadership of these unions are actively and directly promoting the ANC’s neo-liberal capitalist interests within Cosatu.u put up any resistance to the threat to the federation’s political and organisational independence at Cosatu’s CEC where the charges against Vavi emerged. A commission of enquiry was established to investigate the charges. The Cosatu CEC in May this year was planned to be the meeting where Vavi was to get the chop.
However the ANC leadership intervened and convinced the Cosatu leaders to hold off and put up a show of unity. They knew that hostilities at the Cosatu CEC and kicking Vavi out could have precipitated a backlash from Cosatu members and even a split within the federation. The ANC could not afford a weakened and divided Cosatu with less than a year to go for the next national and provincial elections.
The unions who have led the charges are themselves pits of corruption and misuse of workers’ money. Part of their determination to get rid of Vavi is to prevent him from investigating and exposing their corrupt leadership. The Mail & Guardian has exposed how many senior officials have fathered children with subordinate staff. It’s clear that the charges are not made out of concern for the proper running of Cosatu but emerges as an opportunistic attempt to remove a political rival from Cosatu’s leadership. This is very similar to the removal of Julius Malema from the ANC youth league, who was acceptable to the ANC leadership for as long as he towed the line.
Vavi & Cosatu under attack
COSATU’s CEC Political Commission Opposes the NDP but will Engage Constructively at the Alliance Economic Summit. The Commission resolved that “While we want to unite behind the Second Phase of the Transition, we will resist problematic proposals…”And…..wants to ensure that the ANC government’s NDP; fundamentally transforms the structure of the economy, promotes a new growth path to industrialise our economy, place the creation of decent work for all at the centre of economic policy and place redistribution and combating inequality and poverty as a fundamental pillar of economic development.
This agreement by the Political Commission must have pleased Vavi and the leadership of Numsa and Fawu and appears to lay the political basis for unity within the federation. However, it was simply a delaying tactic and will not have any influence over the ANC government’s economic policy. This conciliatory approach of vague, seemingly progressive positions contained in resolutions has been tried and tested before for over twenty years – from Cosatu’s Macro Economic Research Group (MERG) during the early 1990’s, to several alternative economic policy proposals by Cosatu to the ANC and the Alliance such as Social Equity and Job Creation during the mid–1990’s and most recently being its Growth Path to Full Employment(2010).
Vavi, Jim & Co are Politically Responsibility for the Current Situation
Despite these alternative economic policy proposals of Cosatu hardly being radical or socialist and Cosatu’s desperate attempts to influence the alliance and the ANC government, it has achieved nothing but vague promises. To achieve this influence, the Cosatu leadership, including Vavi and Numsa’s Irvin Jim, even went to the extent of mobilising in support of the corrupt Jacob Zuma and the current ANC leadership who are even more right-wing than the Mbeki regime.
What Vavi, Jim and the union leaders on the left need to realise is that the current situation is the logical outcome of NDR and also of their own making. NDR is the Stalinist theory that justifies the unconditional support of the black bourgeoisie during the “democratic phase”. Revolutionary socialists have long warned of the perils of NDR and the multi-class, popular front Tripartite Alliance – that it can only be sustained on the basis of trade unions and workers compromising their own interests in support of the black bourgeoisie and its government.
This has never been and never will be a “revolutionary alliance” that serves the interest of the working class and poor since the ANC, its leading party is a capitalist party. Leaders like Vavi and Jim have for several years aided in selling this lie to the Cosatu members and the working class. Even now that they are fighting for their political survival in Cosatu, they have still not broken from the politics of the ANC/SACP. This is their biggest weakness.
Once again the Cosatu leaders are not turning to the two million members of Cosatu to force the ANC government to adopt more radical economic policies and implement them. This is once again a way of duping Cosatu members into believing that the Alliance and the ANC is willing to change and be more “working class biased”. However, the reality of the Alliance and the ANC in government for twenty years has shown that the ANC is a capitalist political party and actually anti-working class. It has implemented economic policies that favour white monopoly capital and the new black capitalists. This has resulted in the majority of black South Africans getting poorer and suffering economic hardship – having to pay high prices for everything from housing, transport, food, electricity, water to education for our children. Yet millions of workers have lost their jobs over the last twenty years and millions still working have seen their working conditions and wages worsen – having to rely on expensive loans to survive.
The Mineworkers of Marikana have shown the way
Last year the Lonmin mineworkers (rock-drill operators) decided that enough is enough and embarked on a wild-cat strike against their bosses (including ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa) for a living wage. The ANC government’s response was brutal and massacred 34 miners in cold blood. This tragic episode in our class struggle exposed the ANC and the Alliance for what it is – an organisation for the suppression of working class interests and to support capitalism under ANC rule. The SACP General Secretary, Blade Nzimande, like the police commissioner, Ria Phiyega, openly endorsed the massacre of the mineworkers and the crushing of the strike. Likewise, the leaders of NUM collaborated with the bosses and called for police action against their own members in defence of the two-year wage agreement.
Regrettably approximately 100000 mineworkers have since resigned from the NUM and joined other unions, especially AMCU. These militant mineworkers presented a real opportunity to create a rank and file movement within the NUM to democratise and kick out the reactionary right-wing ANC/SACP leaders of the union. Instead hostile divisions have been created between mineworkers – between those belonging to AMCU up against those who remained within the NUM. The only ones who benefit from this division and hostility are the mine bosses.
The Way forward
We cannot put any faith in the Cosatu leadership! It’s only workers who can protect the federation from being undermined and completely dominated by the corrupt bourgeois ANC’s domination. We must reject the ANC Task Team of Sydney Mafumadi and Alec Irwin. These are the members of Mbeki’s Cabinet who introduced and managed Gear! How can they possibly be interested in the welfare of workers! We say “Hands off Cosatu!” We call for a return to the traditions of the early Cosatu. We must demand rank-and-file democracy and proper workers’ control over the Federation. We must demand that the attack on Vavi is properly discussed in all the structures of the affiliates as well as in Cosatu locals. The charges against the GS cannot be kept from the members who elected him.
Revive the Living Wage Campaign from below
The workers demand a living wage because the life they lead is more like dying than living. They demand a decent life, so even the ANC’s idle promise of a ‘better life’ is not good enough. They know that their lives are worth nothing in the eyes of the capitalist bosses and the ANC political bosses. They create the wealth but only the bosses profit from it. They know that the privileges of the bosses and their agents are as a result of their blood, sweat and tears!
The struggle for a Living Wage is much more than just the wages paid each month by the bosses. It’s also about the state providing the necessary conditions in which a decent life can be lived. So we have to demand decent housing for all and the necessary services like electricity, water and sanitation, roads, sports fields, parks, libraries, etc. that provide for the needs of a community. Furthermore, there needs to be free quality education for all students. Similarly, free quality health care for the working class has to be made available.
These are the issues that Cosatu must vigorously and robustly take up and lead fighting campaigns for by the entire working class. There is no doubt that the capitalist ANC will oppose the granting of these demands. It is only by fighting for these demands that Cosatu will truly represent its members and the broader working class. Cosatu has to play a leading role in bringing together all working class formations that are determined to resist the attacks that capitalism launches.
We have to link this campaign to a Living Income Grant for the unemployed. Capitalism throws off the workers it doesn’t need and leaves them to rot in poverty in the townships and locations scattered across the country. This is exactly what is happening in the mining industry, despite the record profits that the bosses made out of mineworkers’ sweat and blood over the past 5 years.
The unemployed are then used to undercut the wages that trade unions have fought for as we can see with the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) and the National Youth Wage Subsidy Scheme that is promoted by both the ANC and the DA. A Living Income Grant ensures that the unemployed are able to live a decent life and can enter employment at the wages workers have bargained for.
Break the Alliance, Don’t Support the ANC!
The ANC government declared war on the mineworkers last year, slaughtering 34 miners in cold blood and declared a de facto state of emergency in working class townships around Rustenburg. It will not hesitate to use the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state to smash working class communities who protest or workers who strike. In 2011 it was Andries Tatane killed in Ficksburg, previously it was Samwu shop-steward, Petros Msiza – who will be killed next when we strike for a living wage?
The Alliance is premised on the theory and strategy of National Democratic Revolution. This theory and strategy binds COSATU in practice to class-collaborationism and reformism that promotes the false belief that the working class and its enemies – the capitalists and the bourgeois state have common interests. We must decide once and for all to break the Alliance with the ANC and treacherous SACP.
Away with undemocratic and class collaborationist leaders!
The traditions of workers democracy have been severely eroded and replaced by class collaboration with our enemies the bosses and the capitalist ANC government. This class collaboration has taken many guises: reconciliation, nation-building, ‘Proudly South Africa”, social partnership, the Tripartite Alliance, etc.
The latest is the “Mining Accord” facilitated by Deputy President, Kgalema Mothlanthe, to ensure labour peace during this year’s wage negotiations and beyond. In the public service many of the Cosatu unions have betrayed their membership by agreeing to the Public Service Charter, which undermines the bargaining rights of members.
We cannot seriously fight for a living wage, for decent work, for decent housing, for quality education and health care or quality services, for socialism on the basis of class collaboration. It undermines our class resistance and struggle by partnership with our enemies, the bosses and the government. Only the emergence of a rank-and-file movement can oust the rotten Cosatu leadership and replace it with genuine class fighters. If our strategic aim is socialism, then the task is to ensure that the working class through a consistent struggle is prepared ideologically, politically and organisationally to take power and establish itself as a new ruling class.
• Break the class-collaborationist Alliance!
• Break from the class collaborationist perspective of the NDR!
• Launch a debate and a struggle for a mass workers’ party, based on the trade unions that can genuinely champion the immediate and historic interests of the working class.