On the Differences in the Revolutionary Marxist Group
13/01/2014 by socialistfight
On the Differences in the Revolutionary Marxist Group
We begin with two long quotes from Trotsky on the trade unions and syndicalism. It seems to us to that this is the central problem of the RMG, manifest in its attitude to the split in the NUM and its political relationship to the opposition current within Cosatu, its attitude to the question of the aristocracy of labour, Imperialism and its failure to see the revolutionary party in the Trotskyist sense as the national section of the world party of socialist revolution. The first quote sets out the central importance of the trade union bureaucracy for the maintenance of capitalism. Of course Trotsky speaks only of Imperialist countries and the colonies. But it is clear that a powerful trade union movement has emerged in many advanced semi-colonies in the last three decades and these have now became heavily bureaucratised and the central prop of the capitalist state representing the interests of global Imperialism. Central to this in South Africa is the alliance of Cosatu, the ANC and SACP, the ‘Tripartite Alliance’. Another example is the Partido Obrera (Workers Party) in Brazil with its CUT labor federation. Opposed to these are ‘left oppositionist’ federations in both South Africa and Brazil, also bureaucratised and serving as defence of the left flank of the central bureaucracy, often in conflict with them but heavily influenced by centrist groups, some of Trotskyist origins. Their centrism, revolutionary in words in some domestic issues but almost always social-Imperialist in foreign conflicts and wars, serve the entire better to defend the capitalist state from the left in conjunction with the trade union bureaucracy.
The first quote is from Trotsky’s The Errors in Principle of Syndicalism (1929):
In the capitalist states, the most monstrous forms of bureaucratism are to be observed precisely in the trade unions. It is enough to look at America, England and Germany. Amsterdam is the most powerful international organisation of the trade union bureaucracy. It is thanks to it that the whole structure of capitalism now stands upright above all in Europe and especially in England. If there were not a bureaucracy of the trade unions, then the police, the army, the courts, the lords, the monarchy would appear before the proletarian masses as nothing but pitiful and ridiculous playthings. The bureaucracy of the trade unions is the backbone of British imperialism. It is by means of this bureaucracy that the bourgeoisie exists, not only in the metropolis, but in India, in Egypt, and in the other colonies. One would have to be completely blind to say to the English workers: “Be on guard against the conquest of power and always remember that your trade unions are the antidote to the dangers of the state.” The Marxist will say to the English workers: “The trade union bureaucracy is the chief Instrument, for your oppression by the bourgeois state. Power must be wrested from the hands of the bourgeoisie, and for that its principal agent, the trade union bureaucracy, must be overthrown.” Parenthetically, it is especially for this reason that the bloc of Stalin with the strikebreakers was so criminal. i
The second quote is from Communism and Syndicalism, also 1929 in the same collection. The bolded sentence below seems to us to be the most relevant thesis to the differences in the RMG: The correctly understood task of the Communist Party … :
1. The Communist Party is the fundamental weapon of revolutionary action of the proletariat the combat organisation of its vanguard that must raise itself to the role of leader of the working class in all the spheres of its struggle without exception, and consequently, in the trade union field.
2. Those who, in principle, counterpose trade union autonomy to the leadership of the Communist Party, counterpose thereby – whether they want to or not – the most backward proletarian section to the vanguard of the working class, the struggle for immediate demands to the struggle for the complete liberation of the workers, reformism to Communism, opportunism to revolutionary Marxism.
25. The correctly understood task of the Communist Party does not consist solely of gaining influence over the trade unions, such as they are, but in winning, through the trade unions, an influence over the majority of the working class. This is possible only if the methods employed by the party in the trade unions correspond to the nature and the tasks of the latter. The struggle for influence of the party in the trade unions finds its objective verification in the fact that they do or do not thrive, and in the fact that the number of their members increases, as well as in their relations with the broadest masses. If the party buys its influence in the trade unions only at the price of a narrowing down and a factionalising of the latter – converting them into auxiliaries of the party for momentary aims and preventing them from becoming genuine mass organisations – the relations between the party and the class are wrong. It is not necessary for us to dwell here on the causes for such a situation. We have done it more than once and we do it every day. The changeability of the official Communist policy reflects its adventurist tendency to make itself master of the working class in the briefest time, by means of stage-play, inventions, superficial agitation, etc.
The way out of this situation does not, however, lie in counterposing the trade unions to the party (or to the faction) but in the irreconcilable struggle to change the whole policy of the party as well as that of the trade unions.
26. The Left Opposition must place the questions of the trade union movement in indissoluble connection with the questions of the political struggle of the proletariat. It must give a concrete analysis of the present stage of development of the French labour movement. It must give an evaluation, quantitative as well as qualitative, of the present strike movement and its perspectives in relation to the perspectives of the economic development of France. It is needless to say that it completely rejects the perspective of capitalist stabilisation and pacifism for decades. It proceeds from an estimation of our epoch as a revolutionary one. It springs from the necessity of a timely preparation of the vanguard proletariat in face of the abrupt turns which are not only probable but inevitable. The firmer and more implacable is its action against the supposedly revolutionary ranting of the centrist bureaucracy, against political hysteria which does not take conditions into account which confuses today with yesterday or with tomorrow, the more firmly and resolutely must it set itself against the elements of the right that take up its criticism and conceal themselves under it in order to introduce their tendencies into revolutionary Marxism. ii
The question of Method and the United Front
The crisis that has broken out in the RMG in the wake of the Marikana Massacre must be assessed in the light of the previously published major documents of the group, The State of COSATU, the Social Movements and the Tasks of Socialists By Martin Jansen (2005), Our Politics, Political platform of the Revolutionary Marxist Group (2010), Response to Sha Regarding the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Role of the RMG (2013) and WHITHER THE RMG – CENTRIST ALCHEMY OR MARXISM? By Shaheen Khan (2013). The first document is a long educational document produced for the Cosatu conference of 2005. In many ways it can be seen as the ideological basis for the group. There are some problems with it, it seems to us.
In assessing the various left groupings and their history the paper says this of the SACTU/ANC group:
The South African Congress of Trade Unions operated more as the labour wing of the ANC during the 1950’s…. SAAWU was a general union that continued the SACTU political movement style of operating, emphasising strong community campaigning. The formation of the General and Allied Workers Union (GAWU), operating mainly in the old Transvaal, soon followed on the heels of SAAWU. The politics of this group was largely directed by the SACP, that tail-ended the populist nationalist ANC. This tail-endism by the “socialist” SACP leaders of SACTU was in line with the Moscow directed politics of Stalinism with its characteristic pillars, i.e. two-stage revolution towards eventual socialism and socialism within one country and National Democratic Revolution (NDR). The struggles of workers were therefore directed and subsumed by the broader struggle for national liberation, led by other classes clamouring for reforms.
It seems to us to be problematic to say, “The politics of this group was largely directed by the SACP, that tail-ended the populist nationalist ANC.” Surely the ANC was politically tailending the SACP, who had all the Stalinist political education to fit the situation. It might be correct today to say that NOW the SACP has to tailend the ANC, who have become a bourgeois movement, but surely not between 1976 and 1994? As Nelson Mandela famously remarked in his 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom: “There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us. But who is to say that we were not using them?” The point here for us is that despite their closeness the ANC and the SACP are not the same either in form or in content. The ANC is now a notoriously corrupt bourgeois nationalist party but the SACP, whilst having many corrupt leaders, has a working class base and at least a formal commitment to Marxism, which influences these members. For the Comrades for a Workers Government (CWG), one of the groups that formed the RMG, the demand to ‘break the Tripartite Alliance’ amounted to a demand to break both the SACP and Cosatu from the ANC. iii
The increasing tensions between the working class base of the SACP and the ANC government means that NUMSA is forced into conflict with the ANC despite itself. Real material differences of interests are fuelling the conflict between these two bureaucracies and revolutionaries must correctly assess this to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by this conflict. Here, at the NUMSA base in the Western Cape, are the skilled and older workers who might constitute the aristocracy of labour but who contain many SACP members who are now forced into conflict with the system as a whole. Here is also the base of the ‘cape coloureds’ that section of the population which were better treated than the blacks although not treated as well as the whites under Apartheid in the Tricameral Parliament of P.W. Botha from 1984 to 1994 for instance. iv Traditionally there has been a tendency in the Western Cape to have a certain contempt for the poorer black workers and peasants. How to relate to that base under these conditions, how to place demands on the EEF and demand that the EEF place demands on NUMSA and those Cosatu leaders behind Vavi constitutes the key to the revolution in South Africa, as we discuss below.
1994 vote for the ANC
In the 1994 elections the CWG argued for a vote for the ANC. We do not know if any still defend that line today in South Africa. We assert now that it was the correct line in those circumstances because the 1994 vote was the real establishment of the Black South African nation and one could not in any workerist reductionalist, i.e. syndicalist way, oppose the sentiments of the South African workers and peasants in asserting their formal right to overthrow Apartheid and assert their equality as citizens. And they asserted that right primarily by voting for the ANC. Those of us who have continued to defend that position over the years since have been accused of crossing class lines etc. One other international Trotskyist tendency defended that position and we quote from the Revolutionary Internationalist League (British section of the International Trotskyist Committee)’s 1995 document in defence of the line and method as against Workers Power, The Split in Workers Power:
But in the way that opportunism and sectarianism are always opposite sides of the same coin, Workers Power’s failure to apply the method of permanent revolution comes out in a blind sectarian attitude to nationalist movements or struggles that are actually a focus for the struggles of the advanced workers and the fighting masses.
This has been particularly clear over questions of electoral support. An early example was the initial refusal of Workers Power and the Irish Workers Group to call for a vote to Sinn Fein in the north of Ireland elections in the early 80s, despite the importance of the Republican military struggle against British imperialism, let alone the clear indications of the strength of its base among the most oppressed and militant sections of the nationalist working class. Subsequently they changed their position, merely commenting that they had not realised that Sinn Fain would get so many votes, as though it was just the number of crosses on ballot papers!
Much more recently we have seen a similar example of this sectarianism in the South African elections though without any possible excuse that they did not know the ANC would get so many votes. Trotskyists have to fight to break the workers and the masses from the ANC. In the elections it was essential to fight for independent working class organisation and action, including defence to expose the treachery of the ANC, and to call for the unions and mass organisations to build a Workers Party, all of which was the position taken by the ITC. But this fight had to be taken into the living experience of the masses, who saw a vote for the ANC as constituting themselves as a nation, voting for social change and defending ‘their’ elections against sabotage. That is why we understood that on that basis and as part of that strategy (and not for any other reasons) consistent Trotskyists had to be in favour of a vote for the ANC.
Not Workers Power though. They could not bring themselves to vote for the ANC. They can vote for any bunch of counterrevolutionary social democrats on the basis that they are a bourgeois workers party. But the ANC and Sinn Fern are not bourgeois workers’ parties. They are petit bourgeois or bourgeois nationalists and the ANC, moreover, is a popular front. That is how political arguments are settled by Workers Power: it is just a matter finding the right label. We are not quarrelling with the labels here, we are disagreeing with the LRCl’s un-Marxist method of settling questions of revolutionary strategy and tactics · put a movement in the right category and up pops the appropriate response. This is a sectarian method which ignores the real questions of the movement and consciousness of the masses and of the advanced sections of the working class and youth, of their relationships to the various organisations and leaders, and of finding the most effective and dynamic way to intervene in their struggles and change the consciousness of the advanced workers.
So in the South African elections the LRCI ended up calling for a vote for the Workers List Party, an electoral front for a small centrist sect which got less than 1% of the vote. Moreover they knew perfectly well that this group actually opposed fighting for the unions to form a Workers Party, and that their electoral adventure was part of their sabotage of the Committee for a Workers Party. But never mind – they were not nationalists and they were not a popular front!
In both cases the opportunism towards reactionary bourgeois forces and the sectarianism towards the masses, mechanical formulae have replaced Marxist analysis and revolutionary strategy. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most important opposition to the dominant Workers Power leadership within the LRCl has come from its only sections in neo-colonial countries in Latin America. v
The question of the SACP
Wiki reports that the SACP had 51,000 members in 2007 and some report that that is now over 150,000. vi Who are these members? We know at the top they are corrupt bureaucrats and even some capitalists but its base is overwhelming working class but with an increasing number of middle-class careerists. True these are now more conservative, older workers and many have relatively good jobs whereas the EFF is attracting the youth and the unemployed in big numbers. That is roughly the situation between the German Social Democratic party (SPD) and the German Communist party (KPD) in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The KPD had about 300,000 members, a great many of them youth and unemployed, and got 5,980,614 votes in November 1932, the SPD got 7,251,690 and the Nazis 11,737,395. The SPD members were older industrial workers in the main but Trotsky insisted that the United Front tactic was the key to defeating Hitler and opening up the road to the revolution. Above all only when the class united as a WHOLE class could it advance its class consciousness to the point of revolution. The communists should have placed demands on the SPD leaders for united front action against the Nazis and thereby win the base from them if they refused. The tactic of the KPD was that of the ‘third period’ and it is encapsulated in Stalin’s infamous quote in 1924: “Social democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. They are not antipodes, they are twins.” As the blog Down with Tyranny states on November 27, 2011, They’re All The Same… There’s No Difference… Right?
In 1930 Ernst Thälmann, the General Secretary of the KPD, asserted that ‘the German bourgeoisie, like the bourgeoisie in all other countries, is trying to utilise two methods, the method of social-Fascism and the method of Fascism’, and that the latest developments in Germany demonstrated the progressive growing together of social-Fascism with national Fascism’.vii
We are indicating here that the font of reaction in South Africa today is the bourgeois nationalist ANC and if there is a danger of fascism it springs from splits and groupings from that milieu. The SACP leaders and members would be amongst its victims just as the German SPD were in 1933 Germany. These distinctions might have seemed small in 2005 but they were to prove of much greater importance after the Marikana Massacre. Ideologically the main battle was and still is against the political line supplied by Stalinism to enable the ANC and later Cosatu to make its peace with global Imperialism via the closely linked theories of the National Democratic Revolution, socialism in a single country and the two stage theory of revolution. The Tripartite Alliance was apparent in embryo right back from when it was conceived and began its gestation after the big events of 1976. The SACP politically led, the ANC supplied the national popular elaboration of those politics whilst not being tied to them by any real discipline and the trade unions and their federations, beginning with the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and then the community-and-workplace-based Federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU) and in 1985 the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), in alliance with the ANC and the SACP, won the allegiance of the working class via the vague promises of the Freedom Charter. It was a real division of labour which came under much tension on occasion but one which secured the survival of capitalism in the first place and then consolidated the reign of the Imperialist multi-nationals.
On the question of the Labour Aristocracy
The bulk of the descriptive sections of the document are excellently educational but we feel the real problem comes over the question of the aristocracy of labour. This quote contains the essence of the position:
Trade union members are not however, a labour aristocracy acting as the social base of the trade union bureaucracy. Socially most organised workers form part of the impoverished black working class with strong family and community relations with unorganised workers, the unemployed, youth and even the rural poor. Historically in South Africa, the labour aristocracy has mainly consisted of white workers whose privileged status became institutionalised and entrenched in the aftermath of the 1922 white workers revolt on the Rand. Subsequent governments and the capitalists they represented ensured a privileged status to white workers through labour legislation, higher income and benefits and workplace status. This white labour aristocracy’s relatively high economic privileges and their oppressive roles that they played in the production process in relation to super-exploited black workers caused them to be close to and economically, socially and politically intertwined with mine and factory managers, the direct workplace representatives and servants of capital, the class enemy. Since the late 1980s, with the deepening economic crisis in South Africa, and especially in the post-Apartheid era, this conservative and reactionary layer of white workers is being shaken up and undermined. Due to the twin imperatives of neo-liberalism’s requirements of a much wider layer of skilled workers within the labour market to ensure improved productivity and “international competitiveness” and therefore more blacks being included in the skilled layers, as well as the pressures on the ruling class for deracialising the workplace and labour market through measures such as affirmative action, white workers are slowly being squeezed out of their historical positions of privilege and being capitalist agents of oppression at the workplace. This dislodging of white workers from their Apartheid roles have made them more receptive to active and militant trade union struggles. Real possibilities for unity between black and white workers around struggles against the manifestations of neo-liberal globalisation have been opened up. The trade unions are ideally positioned to foster this unity and socialists need to promote and support it and inject it with revolutionary content. (our emphasis).
We are very sceptical if the process described here corresponds with reality. We do not think that there is a process whereby white workers are losing their privileges to any marked degree. Also the ‘Cape coloured’ mixed race and the Indians constituted a large section of the, at least, semi-privileged workers. And they are being joined by a privileged layer of black workers in trade union positions and in skilled jobs. According to Wikipedia:
The poor have limited access to economic opportunities and basic services. Poverty also remains a major problem. In 2002, according to one estimate, 62% of Black Africans, 29% of Coloureds, 11% of Asians, and 4% of Whites lived in poverty. viii
And is the position not implicitly contradicted by the following quote from the same document:
Despite many formal democratic changes, the ANC government has also failed to put an end to key features of apartheid, impacting mostly on the black working class. Apartheid lives through the continued existence of migrant labour, oppressive and racist conditions on many farms, conditions of poverty and underdevelopment in the former homelands, continued squalor and social misery in informal settlements and townships, old-style urban segregation, as well as widespread racism and discrimination, including xenophobia; there have also been increased attempts to prevent migrants from rural areas to settle in the urban areas.
We do not understand the theory of the labour aristocracy in the way that Oupa Lehulere does here as analysed in the State of COSATU document or in the third worldist way the Maoists and the Revolutionary Communist Group of Britain do; blaming the entire organised working class for forming an implicit partnership with their bosses in grabbing excess privileges from exploiting the most oppressed miners and farm labourers or grabbing the booty of empire in Imperialist countries. But the entire TU bureaucracy, as a separate social layer or cast resting on the working class, are the PRIME ideological defenders and the secondary practical defenders of capitalist property relations and profits after the actual state forces themselves and their institutions. They are closely tied to the maintenance of global Imperialism. This bureaucracy does rely strongly on a skilled elite workforce and in conjunction with these they ideologically dominate the entire workforce. In Britain this layer is represented most vociferously by those like Bob Crow of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). His political origin is in the CPGB (as was, today the Morning Star/CPB) and he relies strongly on economic nationalism, most infamously British jobs for British workers and anti European Union Europhobia. This is the ‘leftism’ he pursues so as to be the main opposition to Miliband and the Labour party along with The Independent newspaper columnist Owen Jones. They aim to become the “UKIP of the left”, to be a left populist version of the far right Europhobic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). This social layer of left bureaucrats in Britain is ideologically defended by the Socialist Party and its National Shop Stewards Network, the same CWI who are one of the chief sponsors of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). Peter Taaffe, the Socialist Party General Secretary, visited South Africa in February 2013 for the conference of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, the SA section of the Committee for a Workers’ International), to promote the WASP project.ix x
How does the Labour Aristocracy function?
Isolated strikes, even quite militant one with serious mobilisations, remain sectional and only advance the overall position of the working class marginally. When we celebrated the victory of the electricians in defeating the attacks on them by the employers last year we were conscious that the building labourers were not involved and that their conditions were dire indeed. xi They are now completely unorganised on all private sites; the main builders’ union, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) now only organise in Local Authority workforces. East European workers are picked up by subcontractor’s vans in supermarket car parks and elsewhere, they have no rights whatsoever and are paid a pittance. Unless we begin to organise these workers and fight their cause any short term victory for the skilled workers will be hollow. As Secretary of the Grass Roots Left Gerry Downing wrote to them the following:
In that way the struggles of the London cleaners is an allied struggle and an inspiration to the building workers, as they operate in a trade that is also notoriously difficult to organise and requires the most militant of tactics and the sharpest of struggles against the TU bureaucracies, ever anxious to cut a deal with employers which gives them members subs but sells out the rights and conditions of the workers. These sentiments, of course, apply not only to the Sparks and allied trades but also to all trades and to the building labourers in the building sites. This gives the Sparks, on the back an all too rare industrial victory, a unique opportunity to take up the fight begun by Des Warren and the building worker strikers in 1972. In that regard the struggle against the Blacklist and the struggle for Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets is inseparable from the struggle to organise the sites today. It has to involve the sharpest struggle against the trade union bureaucracy in Unite, UCATT, the GMB and others whose practice of imposing convenors in collaboration with the construction companies, as in the Olympics sites, has led to such terrible results.
We received no reply. Historically it is only when the best organised sections of the working class rallies around the weakest and most oppressed when they enter struggle that the class becomes a class for itself. In Britain the Bryant and Mays Match Girls and the Dockers Tanner strike of the late 1880s were strikes of women and Irish immigrant labour that drew immediate national and international support and there are countless other instances when the class acts as a conscious whole. The Great Unrest in Britain from 1911 to 1913 was an example with the Dublin Lockout of 1913 as its culminating struggle. The Grunwick strike in 1977 in Willesden, North West London, where 17,000 miners rallied for the handful of Asian women who were sacked and victimised in the local factory was another. These instances and many others can be cited globally, are when the class, as a WHOLE class, advances its consciousness the most, when the intervention of the revolutionary party is the most vital and when it will get the best reception for its propaganda and programme. That is capitalism as a WHOLE SYSTEM and not even as the aggregation of individual employers which is the limits of syndicalism as outlined in Trotsky’s quotes above, begins to emerge in the consciousness of the masses as the enemy. It seems to us that that time is now in South Africa.
The two-tier workforce is a growing global phenomenon; new workers are taken on with appalling terms and condition to do the same jobs as well paid older established workers. Zero hour contracts are the method of operation today in Britain to return us to the conditions of the Victorian era. As Wikipedia explains:
Zero-hour contracts are used extensively in the private, non-profit, and public sectors in the United Kingdom. Sports Direct, a retailer, has 90% of its workers on zero-hour contracts while J D Wetherspoon, a pub chain, has 80%. Cineworld, a large cinema chain, also uses the contracts. 90% of McDonald’s workforce in the UK – 82,000 staff members – are employed on a zero-hour contract. According to a McDonald’s spokesperson all work is scheduled in advance with no employees being “on call” and meets the needs of workers who desire or need a flexible schedule. A major franchisee of Subway also uses the contracts: “The company has no duty to provide you with work. Your hours of work are not predetermined and will be notified to you on a weekly basis as soon as is reasonably practicable in advance by your store manager. The company has the right to require you to work varied or extended hours from time to time.” The Subway workers are required a condition of employment to waive their rights to limit their workweek to 48 hours. Burger King franchisees and Domino’s Pizza operations in the UK extensively use zero-hour contracts. The Spirit Pub Company has 16,000 staff on zero-hour contracts; Boots UK has 4,000. Buckingham Palace, which employs 350 seasonal summer workers, also uses them. xii
Is this not global Imperialism in operation? Sports Direct has 20,000 staff on zero-hour contracts and 2,000 full time staff who do very well indeed out of this. According to the Daily Mail online: “It (the zero-hours revelation) comes just weeks after the group announced plans to pay its 2,000 full-time staff bonuses of up to £100,000.” xiii These must surely constitute the most privileged of labour aristocrats.
At the end of the Preface to the French and German editions written in July 1920 of Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, (Spring 1916) Lenin makes his famous attack on the labour aristocracy, the “labour lieutenants of the capitalist class”, identifying their evolution with Imperialism itself. Tsarist censorship prevented him from saying this in his original pamphlet. We remain in that historical epoch:
It is precisely the parasitism and decay of capitalism, characteristic of its highest historical stage of development, i.e., imperialism. As this pamphlet shows, capitalism has now singled out a handful (less than one-tenth of the inhabitants of the globe; less than one-fifth at a most “generous” and liberal calculation) of exceptionally rich and powerful states which plunder the whole world simply by “clipping coupons”. Capital exports yield an income of eight to ten thousand million francs per annum, at pre-war prices and according to pre-war bourgeois statistics. Now, of course, they yield much more.
Obviously, out of such enormous superprofits (since they are obtained over and above the profits which capitalists squeeze out of the workers of their “own” country) it is possible to bribe the labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy. And that is just what the capitalists of the “advanced” countries are doing: they are bribing them in a thousand different ways, direct and indirect, overt and covert.
This stratum of workers-turned-bourgeois, or the labour aristocracy, who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook, is the principal prop of the Second International, and in our days, the principal social (not military) prop of the bourgeoisie. For they are the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, real vehicles of reformism and chauvinism. In the civil war between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie they inevitably, and in no small numbers, take the side of the bourgeoisie, the “Versaillese” against the “Communards”.
Unless the economic roots of this phenomenon are understood and its political and social significance is appreciated, not a step can be taken toward the solution of the practical problem of the communist movement and of the impending social revolution. Imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat. This has been confirmed since 1917 on a world-wide scale. xiv
The Split from the NUM
South Africa is a curious hybrid country with a first world economic and industrial base and with third world conditions for many of its workers. It is the most unequal county in the entire world now with an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. The social and economic differences between the provinces are absolutely enormous, with the Western Cape and Gauteng at the top and Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape amongst the worst. Some skilled workers, and not just white ones, do well, as we have seen. China and South Africa are two countries where the phenomenon of the two tier workforce has expanded enormously. Employers collaborate with the treacherous trade union bureaucracy to weaken the workforce by fostering this disunity. If they succeed only a small minority will retain their privileges and become the real aristocrats. The wages and conditions the majority of the workforce will be decimated. This is step that skilled workers may avoid as did the nineteenth century New Model Unions (and even skilled German workers under Hitler) but one that is ever threatening to the semi-skilled and unskilled even when they are well organised even by a leftist bureaucracy. xv When this attack on the majority begins that is the greatest point of danger for the capitalists; that the class will re-unite and fightback as a whole class. This was the process in train before the Marikana Massacre. The Massacre brought the explosion of anger where the class acted as one for itself and broke the bonds of the NUM and Cosatu in order to do so. The militancy of those workers sparked the national uprising of the poor and oppressed right across the mines and then the farms.
The two components of the South African economy where the most oppressed work are the farms and the mines. The industrial heart of the South African economy is in the Western Cape and Gauteng, which is land bound and the most highly urbanised and has the second biggest population after the very poor Kwa-Zulu Natal. Gauteng province contains the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and other big industrial towns like Midrand and Vanderbijlpark. Industry and is quite diverse:
Manufacturing in South Africa is dominated by the following industries: Agriprocessing, Automotive, Chemicals, ICT and electronics, Metals, Textiles, Clothing and Footwear… BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Daimler-Chrysler and Toyota have production plants in the country. xvi
The Daily Maverick reports, SA’s unemployment rates rise to near-record levels:
While the official unemployment rate inched higher to 25.2% for the country as a whole, the expanded definition of unemployment (including a portion of the discouraged work seekers) picked up to the highest level since 2008, at 36.7%… On a regional basis, unemployment (on the expanded definition) is highest in the Eastern Cape (at 45.8%) and lowest in the Western Cape (at 25.8%). (for Q2 2013). xvii
Adding together the number of ‘discouraged work seekers’, those who have not taken active steps to look for employment over the past month and the official number of unemployed, the figure out of work is now over seven million. Youth unemployment is also at record levels over 50%. The regional variations are of enormous political importance because they locate the political strength of the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA) and the SACP in the skilled manufacturing workers in the Western Cape and Gauteng. The Daily Maverick charts show that the municipalities with the highest unemployment rates are in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape whilst eight of the ten municipalities with the lowest unemployment rates are in the Western Cape. xviii These figures indicate the location of the aristocracy of labour in South Africa and areas of strength of the SACP, always orientated in that political direction since 1922 when:
The whites only Mineworkers Union went on strike against Management’s proposal to employ cheaper Black Labour into skilled positions. They were supported in this racist activity by the Communist Party of South Africa which joined them under the slogan “Workers of the world, unite and fight for a white South Africa!” xix xx
The Lonmin rock drillers were on $500 and struck for $1,500. The following quote from Crispen Chinguno shows how inequality is fostered:
The hostel type accommodation [developed under apartheid] has been phased out since 1994 and now the majority of miners live in informal settlements, in shacks or mkhukus as they refer to them here. In these settlements there are no roads, electricity, water or proper sanitation … there are virtually no services. The workers in the mines have become too fragmented when compared to the era before 1994. There are those who directly work for the mines and some of these live in better conditions but most are in squalid conditions. But their proportion is fast diminishing as employers prefer subcontractors. The proportion of workers in the mining industry hired by subcontractors is growing. Some of them earn as low as R1800 a month ($220). These are the miners who are hardest hit. Mining companies are increasingly using subcontractors, as they attempt to reduce the number of permanent staff and reduce costs and many miners are now hired as temporary or casual labour, including the rock drillers. At some mines, there can be as many as 40 subcontractors and labour brokers employing miners on behalf of the company. Take the case of the Impala platinum mine for example; at least 42 per cent are working through sub contractors. This has affected the unions ability to organise and as a result it has become difficult to build worker collective solidarity. Thus violence becomes the tool to forge worker collective solidarity. xxi
Continuing to demand the unity of the working under Cosatu is a demand that flies in the face of the 100,000 miners who have rejected this class-collaborating NUM leadership and have been an inspiration to the entire working class.
In the early 1950s the British Transport and General Workers Union suffered a major split when dockers left to form the ‘Blue Union’. Such was the corruption and class collaboration of the TGWU officials that they could tolerate it no longer. Bill Hunter, a leading British Trotskyist, recounts the Trotskyist support for that split:
BETWEEN September 1954 and May 1955 ten thousand men left the Transport and General Workers’ Union and joined the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers. This ‘walk-out’ involved approximately 40 per cent, of the dock workers in Liverpool, Birkenhead, Manchester and Hull. The scale of this union transfer proved that here was no artificial and isolated adventure by a handful of men acting on impulse. It came about in conditions which have made the post-war history of the British dockers more stormy than that of any other section of the working class.
During the ten years preceding this large-scale recruitment to the ‘blue union’ there were at least six major dock strikes. In these struggles pressure was building up inside the TGWU, to which the overwhelming majority of dockers belonged, and the 1954-55 break with this union has to be seen in the context of these strikes and of daily life on the docks.
…Most important in any study of conditions which gave rise to the ‘blue union’ movement in the northern ports is a consideration of the position occupied by the Transport and General Workers’ Union in the scheme. Already before the war, a gulf existed between the bureaucracy which ran the TGWU and the rank and file of the union. In the Dock Section of the union, the power of the bureaucrats was strengthened through the Dock Labour Scheme, for under it TGWU officials sat on boards which disciplined the men. Militant trade unionists who kicked against working conditions quickly found that they had to fight not only the employers but also their own union representatives. Union officials thus had almost complete power inside the union and now had the power to deprive men of their livelihood. The worker who was active in opposing bureaucratic policies inside the union now had other official powers ranged against him.
The union bureaucracy was also strengthened by the way in which the scheme was used to guarantee contributions to the TGWU. On Merseyside and in Manchester registration books (without which no docker can be accepted for work) were issued only on production of a clear TGWU card. Thus the union was guaranteed its members no matter how little activity was carried on in their interests. The vast majority of dockers in these two cities stamped up their union cards only at the six-monthly intervals when the registration books were issued. They looked on the union not as an organization for the defence and betterment of their conditions but as an ‘overhead charge’ for the maintenance of their job. The official could ignore the worker’s dissatisfaction with the way the union was behaving, secure in the knowledge that union dues would still be paid each April and October.
The TGWU official machine was quite generally detested by the dockers. Officials made agreements with the employers behind the backs of the men. Men were disciplined with the consent of union officials and often saved only by ‘unofficial’ strike action. xxii
We feel that the 1950s conditions described here by Bill Hunter and the political justification for splitting with the TGWU in the docks in 1950s Britain are similar to the case of the NUM and the 100, 000 mineworkers who left it and joined the AMCU. In fact the case for leaving the NUM and joining the AMCU seems to us to be far stronger. In any case that is how the most militant workers see it and we must surely orientate to these, especially as they are in such large number. Whilst doing so we must not ignoring Cosatu and the remaining NUM membership but we must place demands on their leaders to abandon their class collaborationist ways and fight for their members’ wages and conditions like the AMCU is now doing. And of course we must also recognise the bureaucratic nature of the AMCU leadership and fight them also, seeking to replace these leaders with more militant and revolutionary leaders.
Lenin attacked syndicalism in the Russian Marxists in his famous pamphlet What is to be Done? in 1902 thus:
In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. xxiii (our emphasis).
We consider its lack of Internationalism to be the weakest points of the RMG’s political outlook. But it is the constant companion of syndicalism as we have analysed above. If everything is reduced to the ‘point of production’ arguments what price racial oppression, the unemployed, the oppression of women, gays, lesbians and transgender people? These are referred to as the ‘social movements’ in South Africa. We must not elevating them above the class struggle and substitute them for the working class and the revolutionary party as typically the USFI British Section, Socialist Resistance, do who designate themselves as an ‘eco-socialist feminist’ party (with a green red and purple tricolour as their flag!). This is also the essence of the approach of Oupa Lehulere in his Social Movements, Cosatu and the ‘new UDF’. xxiv But equally we cannot reject these real struggles against real oppression as “identity politics” thereby rejecting the fight against racism, sexism and all other forms special oppression as groups like the Social Equality Party (WSWS) of David North does. He rejected any examination of the political meaning of Gerry Healy’s reign of sexual abuse within the WRP/ICFI as a moralist diversion from the ‘real’ political questions (as did the Spartacists, ICL) and denied the appalling racism in George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin (a ‘class question’ only). Shockingly the SEP defended the child rapist Roman Polanski and the sexual predator Dominique Strauss-Kahn. When forced to deal with instances of sexism and severe discrimination against women in the RMG itself and in other organisations RMG leaders have acted correctly but still, we feel, treat these matters as simply ‘civil rights’ issues on which every civilised citizen should have progressive views and practices. They do not seek the material basis for these special oppressions in capitalism itself and link the fight for the liberation of all these to the global struggle to overthrow capitalism. Engagement with the ‘social movements’ on this principled basis would broaden the political base of the RMG enormously and strengthen it politically for the battle against Stalinism and centrism.
The Entry Tactic
Zico Tamela, a former General Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), and now a Coordinator for their EToll section, was a CWG member who joined the ANC as an entryist. He recounts he had relatively good freedom of action even after being identified as a Trotskyist. It is likely that entryism in the ANC by a serious grouping would not have lasted more than a few years but it may well have saved the CWG as a political current. We are aware that the political collapse of the central leadership of its international, the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency, had a serious adverse effect on the group but there was much to be retained from that history which risks being lost now.xxv It is true that Zico later became a bureaucrat but a properly thought out and co-ordinated entry faction of the CWG might have produced good results. It was the logic of the call for the vote for them in 1994. Other top CWG leaders like Darlene Miller and Greg Ruiters have now become appendages of the ANC despite rejecting the entry tactic. They now produce left critiques of the ANC on occasions in alliance with Patrick Bond (see The Southern African Working Class: Production, Reproduction and Politics Patrick Bond, Darlene Miller, Greg Ruiters). Bond’s own blurb boasts; “In service to the new South African government, Patrick authored/edited more than a dozen policy papers from 1994-2002, including the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and the RDP White Paper.” xxvi This was the programme Nelson Mandela used to defuse the revolutionary situation in 1994 in preparation for the full introduction of neo-liberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) programme in 1996. The RDP produced very little advance for the Black workers and GEAR produced regression for many more.
Entryism is a dangerous tactic and must always be carefully assessed on its results in revolutionary terms. Is the group adopting so much to its milieu in a reformist way? Does the tactic enable the group to engage with more revolutionary youth and workers than if approached from outside? When successes brings the inevitable witch hunt how to exit with the maximum forces and political gains? Where you work and with whom is dependent on the opportunities for fighting for your politics in that milieu. But first you must know your own politics and that of the group or groups you are engaging with. It is conservative to reject entryism because the members are not experienced in the history of revolutionary Trotskyism enough and so not strong enough to perform the tasks assigned to them. Revolutionaries learn in struggle. A serious struggle forces the best to learn from it and that is how revolutionary leaders are forged: in the furnace of the class struggle itself.
The most notorious opportunist practitioners of entryism are the Grant tradition, the CWI and the IMT. They invariable tailor their ‘Trotskyism’ to the milieu in which they operate, proposing that the British Labour party can be the vehicle for introducing it via an ‘Enabling Act’. In this reformist scenario if the ‘Trotskyist’ control the government the result will be a healthy workers state, if a ‘left’ Labour government does it the result will be a deformed workers state. The whole of the Marxist theory of the state is thereby junked together with every revolutionary struggle from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the Russian Revolution, Chile in 1973 and Egypt today. The DSM are part of the CWI. An assessment of the politics of that group is necessary in order to prepare members for any long term relations. One of our comrades is on the Steering Committee of the National Shop Stewards Network, the British equivalent of the WASP. They have a far larger membership and periphery than we have so it is necessary to engage with them to access the wider movement.
We feel it is quite wrong to equate Julius Malema’s EFF with fascism or to regard it as moving towards fascism, as we also reject that characterisation of the SACP. It is true that both SACP general secretary Blade Nzimand and Malema are absolute scoundrels but the question is, what is their base? Does not the EFF contain the best of the revolutionary youth and workers, inspired by the rhetoric, even though we know he does not mean it? If it is possible to assess the ranks of the EFF via the WASP then that is what the RMG should do, in our opinion. Trotsky proposed a united front against the rise of fascism, whose base must surely be in the ANC if they emerge to attack workers organisations, as we have already observed. Who went to Marikana to “smash the counter-revolution” and would not Malema have supported the police and not the striking miners if his grouping was edging towards fascism? Workers Power makes the following useful comments entryism on it but really offer no further guidance:
From the late 1940s to the late 1960s, both the International Committee and the International Secretariat factions of the “Fourth International” pursued a grossly adaptationist and conciliationist attitude towards social democracy. The dramatic events of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the student demonstrations and riots, the militant anti-war movements, the mass strikes by the Italian, British and, above all, French workers, led the degenerate fragments of the Fourth International (FI) to sharply revise their positions on social democracy.
The groupings of Trotskyist origin, almost all of whom had been engaged in “deep entryism” at some point in the l950s and 1960s, veered away from their previous policy of political accommodation to reformism and towards the view that the reformist parties had no relationship to the proletariat.
The early and mid-1970s saw a turn to “building the Party”, a turn that was usually accompanied by an attitude to social democracy that was as blind, one sided and tactically inept as their previous one had been supine and liquidationist. In their search for elements that were uncorrupted by reformism, these centrist groupings looked variously to shop-floor militants in the unions, to students, or to the women’s movement to provide a base for revolutionary politics.
Social Democracy was proclaimed as being either dead or irredeemably bourgeois. Attempts were made to by-pass it, ignore it altogether or to kill it with curses in a “Third Period” manner. xxvii
Lenin advocated entry into the British Labour party in 1920, Trotsky advocated entry in it in the late 1930s, into the French Socialists in 1936 and into the Spanish youth section of Largo Caballero’s Socialist party in 1934. All these projects need to be studied in detail in order to develop an entry tactic that works. Here Pierre Broué examines the great loss of an opportunity in Trotsky’s bitter reprimand to Andrés Nin and the ultra leftist Hendrik Sneevliet in their failure to enter the Spanish Socialist Youth in 1934-36”
Trotsky wrote about Spain and about the positions which Andres Nin adopted towards the proposal to enter the Socialist Youth, in a letter of 16 July 1936. This letter was a polemic against his comrade, Sneevliet, and was addressed to the leadership of the Dutch RSAP. He wrote:
“The splendid Socialist Youth came spontaneously to the idea of the Fourth International. To all our urgings that all attention be devoted to the Socialist Youth, we received only hollow evasions … The Socialist Youth then passed over almost completely into the Stalinist camp. The people who called themselves Bolshevik-Leninists and who calmly saw this happen, or better yet, who caused it, have to be condemned for ever as traitors to the revolution.” xxviii
The Internationalism of the RMG is Wrong
MJ uses the ‘point of production’ arguments to repudiate Lenin on Imperialism in the following quote which criticises Oupa Lehulere’s analysis of finance capital xxix in the State of COSATU document:
However, can we really refer to money or even finance-capital (the merger of banking and industrial capital) as “dominant” in a period of monopoly capital, i.e. where capital has become concentrated in ownership and control in the form of fewer and fewer large monopolies with various interests and investments in all spheres of the capitalist economy? Do trans-national companies like the petroleum, motor vehicle, media and clothing companies confine their economic activities only to production? In fact the equity markets are as they were before, means for raising capital for investments and expanding potential for value creation and profits. What has happened over the last few decades is that the speculative nature of capitalism has intensified and become more readily geographically diversified with easier access to foreign markets through financial liberalisation. Is Oupa seriously suggesting that that the investment companies dominate the giant TNC’s like Wal-Mart, MacDonalds, Enron, Shell, BP, Nissan, Toyota etc. Is it not still true that ultimately all value is still rooted in production as per the Marxist labour theory of value? Are the “finance capitalists” not an integral part of monopoly-capitalist conglomerates, sections of whom dictated the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq?
This certainly was not Lenin’s take on Imperialism. Right at the beginning of his famous book he sets out the proposition:
In 1907, there were in Germany 586 establishments employing one thousand and more workers, nearly one-tenth (1,380,000) of the total number of workers employed in industry, and they consumed almost one-third (32 per cent) of the total amount of steam and electric power. As we shall see, money capital and the banks make this superiority of a handful of the largest enterprises still more overwhelming, in the most literal sense of the word, i.e., millions of small, medium and even some big “proprietors” are in fact in complete subjection to some hundreds of millionaire financiers. xxx
And he then describes in detail how this domination is achieved:
Paramount importance attaches to the “holding system”, already briefly referred to above. The German economist, Heymann, probably the first to call attention to this matter, describes the essence of it in this way:
“The head of the concern controls the principal company (literally: the “mother company”); the latter reigns over the subsidiary companies (“daughter companies”) which in their turn control still other subsidiaries (“grandchild companies”), etc. In this way, it is possible with a comparatively small capital to dominate immense spheres of production. Indeed, if holding 50 per cent of the capital is always sufficient to control a company, the head of the concern needs only one million to control eight million in the second subsidiaries. And if this ‘interlocking’ is extended, it is possible with one million to control sixteen million, thirty-two million, etc.” Britain and France, are the oldest capitalist countries, and, as we shall see, possess the most colonies; the other two, the United States and Germany, are capitalist countries leading in the rapidity of development and the degree of extension of capitalist monopolies in industry. Together, these four countries own 479,000 million francs, that is, nearly 80 per cent of the world’s finance capital. In one way or another, nearly the whole of the rest of the world is more or less the debtor to and tributary of these international banker countries, these four “pillars” of world finance capital.
But perhaps ‘that was then, this is now’? Now the domination of the US, Britain and Europe is absolutely overwhelming. Neil Irwin’s recent book The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire, explains how, in William Blum’s words, “Capital prowls the globe with a ravenous freedom it hasn’t enjoyed since before World War I”. Its central thesis is summarised in the blurb advertising the book:
When the first fissures became visible to the naked eye in August 2007, suddenly the most powerful men in the world were three men who were never elected to public office. They were the leaders of the world’s three most important central banks: Ben Bernanke of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Mervyn King of the Bank of England, and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank. Over the next five years, they and their fellow central bankers deployed trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to contain the waves of panic that threatened to bring down the global financial system, moving on a scale and with a speed that had no precedent… His account, based on reporting that took place in 27 cities in 11 countries, is the holistic, truly global story of the central bankers’ role in the world economy we have been missing. xxxi
Perhaps all this seems to be overlabouring the point and what does it matter anyway? We are all opposed to all forms of capitalism and for its overthrow, banks, transnational corporations and ‘native’ capitalism together. Except in South Africa there was the Freedom Charter and in the current split emerging in Cosatu it is again being defended against the SACP and ANC leaders who have, apparently, abandoned and betrayed this ‘revolutionary’ programme. And allegedly they have betrayed it by capitulating to Imperialism. And Lenin is quoted extensively on Imperialism but selectively so as to avoid this question of the domination of finance capital over the global economy. Can’t we just nationalise all these transnational companies and keep all the profits generated at home in South Africa and let a little trickle down to the masses (not so much as to interfere with the absolutely necessary task of ‘socialist accumulation’) whilst we are expanding the economy to the point that it is industrialised enough to pass an Enabling Act through parliament to transform it all into a socialist New Jerusalem? The leftist SACP members, the EFF of Malema and the CWI/DSM and WASP would be very soft on that type of a programme. If you can do that then there is again a national, socialism-in-a-single-country road to human liberation, the National Democratic Revolution is a viable enterprise and the two stage revolution, so severely discredited at the Marikana Massacre, now becomes again the path for the revolution.
NUMSA leader Irvin Jim posted a long theoretical document along these lines on the NUMSA website on 22 September 2013 entitled The ideological basis of the recent SACP and ANC attacks against us. It is subtitled, significantly, NEC report says ANC leadership not just bureaucratised, it is also united in resisting expropriation of imperialists.xxxii With the above warning in mind its political content is easily understood:
As we have mentioned repeatedly, this long-term structural crisis cannot and will not be resolved unless the basic wealth of our country is transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole through first and foremost, the nationalisation of the mines, banks and other monopoly industries and through an active industrial and trade policy to control other industry to assist in the well-being of the people… a) there is growing mass impatience about the continued dominance of white monopoly capitalism, b) the national liberation movement has failed to transfer the wealth of this country to its people and instead, has allowed our country’s wealth to be transferred abroad, c) white monopoly capital and global capitalism are in the midst of a profitability crisis.
Jim quotes Lenin on Imperialism, bolding the monopoly and colonial aspect to downplay the global reach of finance capital, goes on to attack the ANC/SAP for opposing nationalisation of Imperialist monopolies whilst making clear that he is advocating merely capitalist nationalisations without workers’ control or ownership. And, as Lenin observes in his post-revolution prefaces he was unable to assert the political content of his economic analyses, “the pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorship… It is painful, in these days of liberty, to re-read the passages of the pamphlet which have been distorted, cramped, compressed in an iron vice on account of the censor.”:
(Amilcar) Cabral further defines imperialism as follows: “We will simply state that imperialism can be defined as a worldwide expression of the search for profits and the ever-increasing accumulation of surplus value by monopoly financial capital, centred in two parts of the world; first in Europe, and then in North America… Based on the above, it is no surprise that the Freedom Charter, particularly its economic clauses, call for the most direct onslaught against imperialism. The Freedom Charter demands that “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Bank and monopoly industries be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”. The South African working class, under the leadership of COSATU, maintains that the best way in which “the people as a whole” can own this wealth is through nationalisation (see for example, the 9th Congress resolutions).
This is easily understood as a defence of native capitalism. And so did some of the readers of the blog. ‘Domza’ wrote on September 23 2013:
Under all your negativity, there is only one proposal here, which is nationalisation under the existing bourgeois state. You are asking for legislation or policy to change everything. Not only Lenin but also Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg scoffed at reformist ideas like this, and especially when such ideas masquerade as more revolutionary-than-thou, as you do. Read the “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875) and “Reform or Revolution?” (1900). There has never been a time in the history of proletarian politics when the communists, starting with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the 1840s, have not had to confront syndicalists like yourself, and had to denounce their delusions.
And a bitter attack by ‘Racist in CosatuSpeak means educated’ also on September 23 which speaks of, “The new predatory class, lead by the union bosses (earning far more than the workers they “represent”) and including the political elite and other wabenzi’s ([Blade]Nzimande [SACP GS], Ramaposa, Redebe and his brother in law Motsepe, lead by No 1 and his parasitic clan.” Surely the main focus of the RMG must be against this current whilst giving them the necessary critical support against the ANC and the SACP to forge the United Front and its main recruitment targets those like the two who have posted who can see the hypocrisy behind the opposition of Vavi and Jim and have gone some ways in politically assessing them correctly. Surely these got their political education in the SACP but have become independent political thinkers and communists which the RMG con win in struggle?
The RMG statement on Internationalism follows:
While our outlook is internationalist, recognising as it does that socialism can only triumph as a worldwide revolution, our immediate arena of struggle is South Africa. The South African Revolution has combined the struggle for political liberation from colonial, racial and Apartheid dispossession, degradation and oppression with the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism. The system of Apartheid-capitalism oppressed the black petty bourgeoisie, the landless masses, the industrial proletariat and the whole black population in the interest of a highly developed system of monopoly capitalism with many features of sub-imperialism. Capitalism in South Africa demanded the subjugation, and hence political oppression, of the black masses in order to extract super-profits from the black proletariat. The form of Apartheid-capitalism therefore assumed that of racial and national oppression; its content was and remains class exploitation.
We think this is not sufficient. It does not see itself as the ‘world party of socialist revolution’. And we think that is for the reasons we have outlined above. The necessity for this is not just some need to connect with international co-thinkers to assist with the socialist revolution in South Africa. It is because by participating in the global struggle for such a party with sections in every country we begin to overcome the national peculiarities inevitable arising for exclusive orientation to our own class struggle and our own individual political history and that of our initial political educators. A conflict is necessary in this way to allow us to approach our own revolution in a truly internationalist way. Not only cannot an isolated socialist state exist for any period as a healthy revolutionary one but such is the globalisation of everything down to bugging our individual mobile phones that we must internationally join with those of us who are fighting to recreate and rebuild the Fourth International.
The classic work defending the absolutely necessity of building (today reconstructing) the Fourth International is John G. Wright’s, Trotsky’s Struggle for the Fourth International, (August 1946). It is necessary to study the whole article but we have abstracted the essence of the document here:
All of Leon Trotsky’s basic teachings are concentrated in the major task of his lifetime’s activity—the building of the Fourth International… For Trotsky, the building of the Fourth International was least of all a question of abstract theory or of an “organizational form.” He heaped scorn upon all those who posed the issue in this manner, because such an approach stands everything on its head. Trotsky saw that the world party of the working class is first of all a closely knit system of ideas, that is to say, a program. On no other basis is it possible to train, temper and fuse the proletarian vanguard internationally and nationally. From the given system of ideas—or program—flows a corresponding system of strategic, tactical and organizational methods. The latter have no independent meaning or existence of their own and are subordinate to the former.
The basic plank of a revolutionary program is—internationalism. Mere acceptance of “internationalism” is hollow mockery unless accompanied in practice by complete rejection of nationalist policies, in whatever guise they may manifest themselves. It was precisely against the nationalist deviations of the Soviet bureaucracy, most crassly expressed by Stalin’s theory of “socialism in one country,” that Trotsky launched his life-and-death struggle against Stalinism. He warned that the adoption of Stalin’s theory would imperceptibly but inescapably shunt the Third International onto the tracks of opportunism.
Internationalism became the very hall-mark of Trotskyism. Writing in 1938, on the Ninetieth Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, Trotsky said:
“The international development of capitalism has predetermined the international character of the proletarian revolution. ‘United action, of the leading civilized countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat,’ [wrote Marx and Engels in 1848]. The subsequent development of capitalism has so closely knit all sections of our planet, both “civilized” and “uncivilized,” that the problem of the socialist revolution has completely and decisively assumed a world character. The Soviet bureaucracy attempted to liquidate the Manifesto with respect to this fundamental question. The Bonapartist degeneration of the Soviet state is an overwhelming illustration of the falseness of the theory of socialism in one country.”
“It is undeniable,” he explained, “that each country possesses the greatest peculiarities of its own. But in our epoch their true value can be estimated, and revolutionary use can be made of them only from an internationalist point of view. Only an international organization can be the bearer of an international ideology.” xxxiii
On a whole series of questions it is clear that the RMG has not got and must adopt a true internationalist position. Confusion on the split in the NUM and how to approach the changed political scene post Marikana Massacre is evident. There is a problem with how Imperialism is understood which seems to give far too much to the old Freedom Charter’s line. Shaheen complains that there is a softness on Vavi and Jim in the current conflict within Cosatu and with the SACP and NUM. There is certainly confusion on how the characterise Julius Malema’s EFF party; is it fascist or moving that way or is it working class, centrist or revolutionary? There seems to be absolute opposite characterisation of this new force which sounds very dangerous for the group’s future. And there is danger on the question of entryism and working with the CWI/DSM group in the WASP. Has a decision been taken to break completely with them or are the northern comrades correct to continue engagement? If so on what basis? Comrades in the LCFI argue strongly for engagement and discussions with us to take forward our central task of reconstructing the Fourth International. We would not expend so much time and effort in this if we did not recognise that you are close to us in many ways; the joint statement on Libya was a great step forward and set us apart from the degenerating centrist groups who falsely claim the name of Trotskyism but who have made their peace with their own bourgeoisie signified by supporting their Imperialist wars. This is often because they are cosying up to trade union bureaucrats or are part of left TU federations of NGOs who are dependent on the capitalist state for funding. We hope you take the opportunity of this to begin these vital discussions. The Liaison Committee for the Fourth International will have its launch Conference in Brazil in late August 2014. We hope to see you there.
on Trotsky, The Errors in Principle of Syndicalism, in Communism and Syndicalism http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/unions/index.htm
2 Leon Trotsky, Communism and Syndicalism, in Communism and Syndicalism http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/unions/index.htm
3 Business Day: The meteoric rise and the compromises of the SACP, by Carol Paton, 16 April 2013, “By far the most important political spin-off of the closing of the gap between the ANC and the SACP has been the corresponding widening of the rift between the SACP and Cosatu or, more accurately, between the SACP and the non-SACP factions of Cosatu. The relationship between the ANC and the SACP was further cemented in Mangaung, where several top Cosatu leaders who also occupy leadership positions in the SACP were elected to the ANC’s national executive committee. Cosatu — which began the Zuma era extremely united — is now split along SACP lines, with the SACP faction lining up in opposition to Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi in what amounts to a high-stakes game to remove him. As Vavi has just been popularly re-elected by workers at Cosatu’s September congress, it is hard not to see the campaign to remove Vavi by SACP-aligned unionists as an attempt to win what they did not at the Cosatu congress.” http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/2013/04/16/the-meteoric-rise-and-the-compromises-of-the-sacp
4 Wikipedia, The Tricameral Parliament; The Tricameral Parliament was the name given to the South African parliament and its structure from 1984 to 1994, established by the South African Constitution of 1983. While still entrenching the political power of the White section of the South African population (or, more specifically, that of the National Party) (NP), it did give a limited political voice to the country’s Coloured and Indian population groups. The majority Black population group was still excluded, however. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tricameral_Parliament
5 The Split in Workers Power RIL 1995, drafted by Nick de Marco. https://socialistfight.com/2013/10/18/the-revolutionary-internationalist-league-on-workers-power/
6 Business Day: Ibid. “The greatest beneficiary of these shifting internal dynamics has been the South African Communist Party (SACP), which has positioned itself to play a role that was unthinkable in the Thabo Mbeki era. The party can now count four Cabinet ministers and four deputy ministers in its top leadership structure, the central executive committee. The rest of the committee is mostly made up of people in provincial government leadership, revealing a successful population of SACP members throughout the government. The rise of the SACP in influence and in numbers — it is now three times bigger than it was five years ago, with 150,000 members — is worth remarking on not because of the old “reds under the bed” fear but because the party has become a power base from which to build a political career and a constituency that ANC leaders must take seriously.”
7Down With Tyranny, http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/theyre-all-same-theres-no-difference.html#sthash.qY3t0oCl.dpuf
8 Wikipedia, Economy of South Africa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_South_Africa
9 South Africa: Big response for Workers’ and Socialist Party. http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16208
10 Wikipedia, Workers and Socialist Party, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers_and_Socialist_Party
11 Sparks Electricians Claim Victory Over Employers, http://www.tmponline.org/2012/02/24/sparks-victory-rank-and-file-construction-workers-stop-employers-pushing-35-pay-cuts/
12 Wikipedia, Zero-hour contract, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-hour_contract
13 Daily Mail online: Age Zero hours jobs, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2381118/Age-zero-hours-jobs-Sports-Direct-staff-know-long-theyll-work–theyll-earn.html#ixzz2ioL7V4Qa
14 Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (Spring 1916), Preface to the French and German editions, July 1920. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/pref01.htm
15 Parr, Dave, What Was New About the “New Model Unions” And In What Sense Were They A Model?. “The first group to form a New Model union were the engineers. Their “Amalgamated Society of Machinists, Smiths, Millwrights and Pattern Makers” which later became known as “The Amalgamated Society of Engineers” (the A.S.E.) formed in 1851; other groups such as the carpenters and the builders soon followed. Entry to the A.S.E. was strictly controlled and subscriptions were high; only the skilled workers were admitted. The union “trod a cautious, conservative path, concentrating on building up a stable organization rather than furthering broader political objectives.” This stable organization which the engineers sought was both internal within the union and with the management whom they wished to work with rather than against. The union’s aim was to maintain the status of the trade and provide the financial support previously offered by the friendly societies. The A.S.E. was one of the first unions to pay full time officials; learned men who could negotiate with managers on a one to one basis if necessary. Two men in fine suits talking across a table was indeed a far cry from angry mobs on a picket line shouting at managers through a factory gate.” http://www.daveparr.co.uk/college/drp1-95.htm
16 SouthAfrica.info, Manufacturing in South Africa, http://www.southafrica.info/business/economy/sectors/manufacturing.htm#.UmykGlPN4tU
17Unemployment rate climbs to 25.2%, By Sanisha Packirisamy, economist at Momentum Asset Management http://www.momentuminv.co.za/AssetManagement_Home/UnemploymentRateClimbs.aspx
18 SA’s unemployment rates rise to near-record levels, http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-02-sas-unemployment-rates-rise-to-near-record-levels/#.Umyia1PN4tU
19 Socialist Fight 15, Ailish Dease, The Past and Marikana – Imperialism and the continued Rape of Africa p. 17.
20 Monroe, Richard. Lessons of the 1950s, First published in Inqaba Ya Basebenzi, no. 13, March-May 1984 Chapter Six, The Birth of SACTU: “(The South African) Industrial Conciliation Act of 1956… (taken together with the Native Labour Settlement of Disputes Act of 1953) completed the exclusion of African workers from the officially-recognised and state-regulated trade union system, and carried the racial division of coloured, Asian and white workers to new extremes. It banned the registration of new “mixed” unions, and racially segregated the membership of existing mixed unions… The Communist Party gave no clear direction on this central problem facing SACTU, and CP members in SACTU in fact pulled in different directions. The leaders of the biggest registered unions in SACTU (including among them some prominent Communists) decided to accept registration on a racial basis, thus leaving the onus of any defiance of the law to the African workers alone. This decision was made unilaterally, and without thorough discussion among the union members, despite the 1957 SACTU conference having agreed to postpone a decision in the hope of achieving a united stand. Thus the Textile union amended its constitution to include coloured workers only; the Laundry union divided into separate single-race unions; and the Food and Canning union decided to confine membership to coloured workers, organising African workers in the parallel AFCWU.”, http://www.marxist.com/LessonsOfThe1950s/index.html
21 Aljazeera, Q&A: Understanding the Marikana strikes, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/09/20129994446402210.html
22 Hands off the ‘Blue Union’! DEMOCRACY ON THE DOCKS, A LABOUR REVIEW PAMPHLET http://www.billhunterweb.org.uk/articles/articles.htm
23 Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, What Is To Be Done? http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iii.htm
24 Social Movements, Cosatu and the ‘new UDF’ by Oupa Lehulere, http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?3,28,10,2415
25 Documents of the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency, “The Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (LTT) was the result of the 1991 fusion of the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency of Belgium and Germany, the Workers International League of Britain (which emerged from the collapse of Gerry Healy’s WRP) and a group of South African Trotskyists. Other groups to join the LTT included the Comrades for a Workers Government (South Africa), Workers Voice (Sri Lanka), the Leninist-Trotskyist Group (Canada) and the Swedish Arbetarförbundet för Socialismen (AfS – Workers League for Socialism). http://marxists.anu.edu.au/history/etol/document/ltt/index.htm
26 Patrick Bond – Centre for Civil Society – University of KwaZulu-Natal. http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?10,24,8,55
27 League for the Fifth International, Reformism and the workers’ movement – Introduction, 30/05/1983, http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/reformism-and-workers-movement-introduction
28 Pierre Broué, The Socialist Youth in Spain (1934–1936), (When Carrillo was a Leftist), https://www.marxists.org/archive/broue/1983/12/carrillo.html
29 Social Movements, Cosatu and the ‘new UDF’ by Oupa Lehulere, http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?3,28,10,2415
30 Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, I. Concentration of production and monopolies, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch01.htm
31 Irwin, Neil. The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire, Published April 2013 by Penguin Press HC
32 The ideological basis of the recent SACP and ANC attacks against us. http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71651?oid=406280&sn=Detail&pid=71651
33 John G. Wright, Trotsky’s Struggle for the Fourth International, (August 1946), http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/wright/1946/08/trotsky.htm