17/08/2018 by socialistfight
Vavi and Jim differ on what kind of Workers Party with the CWI’s WASP pitching towards Vavi
Saftu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi speaking during a media briefing in Johannesburg, 17 May 2018.
The current rapidly evolving crisis in South Africa is a result of the betrayal of the revolutionary onslaught of the Black masses that developed after the Soweto massacre of 1976 by the Triple Alliance (TA) of the African National Congress (ANC), the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) ideologically led by the South African Communist Party of (SACP). They set their face against the masses in revolution via the Freedom Charter, a stagist ‘democratic’ revolution that sought a compromise with the international finance capitalism, imperialism, and their local SA agents. The code for imperialism and their local agents in South Africa is White Monopoly Capitalism (WMC), and that is how we will use the term in this article.
On September 2017, the British-based Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) expelled the public relations firm Bell Pottinger, Zuma’s public relations firm created by Margaret Thatcher’s PR advisor Lord Timothy Bell in 1989, following a complaint in July by the Democratic Alliance of South Africa because they had “brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions”. Therefore, “it has received the harshest possible sanctions”. ‘WMC’ was the ‘racist’ slogan that brought the wrath of the PRCA down on their heads, undoubtedly urged on by the representative of ‘WMC’ itself.
How ironic that, having accused ‘WMC’ of plotting against him, Zuma finds Bell Pottinger brought down by just that force. Racism against the white post-apartheid capitalist agents of imperialism is a terrible crime… in the not-so-post-apartheid South Africa.
The Gupta brothers were feted by the Modi government of India and regarded as informal ambassadors to South Africa until the movement began to oust Zuma. By late 2017, undoubtedly under pressure from Anglo/American imperialism, the Bank of Baroda sought a further turn of the screw to bankrupt the Guptas by withdrawing all financial services from his firms. Modi had previously withdrawn the services of the Bank of India. Obviously, Zuma is the target here also. The entire weight of global imperialism and its local agents were then concentrating on ousting Zuma. 
Tripartite Alliance deceives the masses
To accomplish the deception of the masses the TA, ideologically guided by the SACP, seeks to divert the anger of the masses by a bogus leftism. Internal conflicts in the TA were always about those who got to represent WMC now and those who sought to oust the incumbents to represent it themselves by making bogus populist appeals to the masses, emphasising aspects of their grievances but always partial and reformist, never challenging the system as a whole. In this way, genuine revolts at the grassroots were controlled and turned off by false promises of big changes as soon as state power was captured by the new kleptocrats.
It should be emphasised here that the relationship of the TA to the South African state was unique in advanced western society. In fact, it retained most of the repressive structures of the Apartheid state except now a new Black elite benefited from them. It also reflected in many ways the relationship of the communist parties to the state in ‘really existing socialism’; the Stalinist states that existed before the 1989-92 collapse and still exists in the remaining ones and also in former workers states like China and Vietnam.
Here the Communist parties were and are the state, there was no separation of powers. These CPs, beginning with the Stalinised USSR after 1928, controlled all aspects of the state and appointed all its functionaries, they had a bogus Supreme-Soviet-type legislature, they appointed judges and police chiefs, all of whom had to be members of the CP. Although they still represented in a distorted form the dictatorship of the proletariat in that property relations were proletarian, i.e. production was for a plan, however, distorted and undemocratic, to satisfy human need and not profit. The TA retained all the worst features of those states but dedicated to satisfying the needs of global finance capital and definitively not human need.
That has been the real situation in SA up to now, with various trappings of western democracy, an executive dominated by the President, a legislature in the parliament nominally independent from that and a judiciary and police force nominally independent from both. But this separation of powers, which defines a properly functioning bourgeois democracy in theory, if never really in practice, is much further from the reality of the power structures in SA than in other metropolitan western bourgeois democracies.
Jacob Zuma, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki dominated South Africa’s political landscape from the end of apartheid in 1994 until 2017.
Until the ascendancy of Ramaphosa all SA Presidents, Mandela, Mbeki, and Zuma, had not only been ANC and SACP members but were also on the SACP Central Committee (CC), Mandela secretly we learned on his death. To win the Presidency of the ANC was automatically to become the President of the Republic as the ANC candidate always won. The crucial vote was in the ANC itself, the election itself was more of a formality. The judiciary always delivered the verdicts required by the ANC President and even if they delivered a contrary one, as in the case of overruling a lower court by finding Mbeki innocent of politically interfering in the prosecution of Zuma for corruption ten years ago, it was too late as Mbeki had already resigned. Of course, they are now prosecuting Zuma for corruption, the same charges they refused to prosecute him for when he was the shoe-in President at that time because he was the vehicle to get their hands on the loot.
And the sentence of death on the 34 Marikana miners in August 2012 was passed by Ramaphosa with Zuma’s blessing, carried out by the police as required and the judges whitewashed the crime as required in the subsequent Commission of Inquiry. Although all western democracies breech the separation of power when really required; the Bloody Sunday Widgery whitewash, the convictions of the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4, the Hillsborough and Orgreave coverups etc. in Britain for example, nevertheless there is a far greater separation of powers in Britain than in SA because of the hegemonic position in the state of the TA; the ANC and Cosatu, ideologically guided by the SACP.
The anger of the Black masses was always threatening, the fear was that they would mobilise for victory on a Trotskyist programme of permanent revolution. That presupposed a transitional programme of mobilising demands leading towards the socialist revolution as part of a regional and thence global programme for revolution, as Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks had used so effectively in 1917 to make the Russian Revolution. And the SACP was always conscious of that danger and was consciously counter-revolutionary in fighting to prevent that happening.
The Zuma-Ramaphosa struggle broke with the precedence of 1990 to 2004 struggles because the situation had radically changed in several crucial aspects.
Ramaphosa is the most corrupt politician in South Africa
President Ramaphosa is, and has been since 1990 at least, the most corrupt politician in South Africa. He has never been a member of the SACP, let alone its CC.
The two richest Black men in South Africa are Ramaphosa’s brother in law, Patric Motsepe, the 6th richest with about $1.3 billion and Ramaphosa himself, the 14th richest man with about $500 million. Mbeki comes in at ‘only’ $8.5 million and Zuma at ‘only’ $20 million.
Whereas the wealth of both Mbeki and Zuma was gleaned from corrupt kickbacks from government contracts etc. both Motsepe and Ramaphosa grew fabulously wealthy in a short few years by participating in the Black Empowerment Programme (BEE). WMC granted them ‘tendered shares’, and directorships which included shares to be paid for out of future profits (‘tenderpreneurs’), and, in the case of the more entrepreneurial Motsepe, ‘business opportunities’. In other words, they bunged them and bunged them and bunged them until they bought their very souls, if they had any to begin with. They, and others like them, Irene Charnley with $150 million, a former negotiator for the NUM and Pule Mabe, appointed the ANC’s new national spokesperson on 6 February, another capitalist like Ramaphosa who allegedly benefited from dodgy contracts worth R33 million ($2.79 million) from the national rail company. These have no alliance to the ANC, which still is, in whatever distorted a form, the remnants of a national liberation movement and still seen as such by the Black masses.
Motsepe and Ramaphosa, who accepted this direct ‘sponsorship’ by WMC, are, therefore ‘honest’ but Mbeki and Zuma who accepted indirect ‘sponsorship’ in a different form from those same people are ‘corrupt’. With the vital difference that the former acted as direct agents of WMC, the latter as their political paid agents via the TA. Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) falls somewhere in the middle of both categories.
The EFF’s Julius Malema and the DA’s Mmusi Maimane shake hands at the State of the Nation debate. Coalitions between the left and right are common now.
Because of the obvious corruption of the ANC leadership, national and provincial, it began losing support to both the Democratic Alliance to its right and to the EFF to its left, although both allied with others against Zuma for Ramaphosa. If the trend continues there was a real danger that the ANC could lose its hegemony and the CODESA arrangement could unravel, opening up space for a new revolutionary upsurge of the masses and for a more vicious dictatorship of capitalism from the right. Such possibility still remains; it is by no means certain the ANC, and consequently, Ramaphosa will win the election in May 2019.
To retain its mass base, which is growing rapidly as the ANC’s is declining, the SACP has begun to stand candidates against the Zuma-led ANC. If the Ramaphosa honeymoon is very short, which it may well be, they may be forced to stand candidates against the Ramaphosa-led ANC in future. In 1991 the SACP had 10,000 members; 1995 – 75,000; 2002 – 19,385; 2007 – 50,000; 2012 – 150,000; 2015 – 213,551 and we must assume the membership continues to grow – they stopped releasing membership figures in 2015. The bulk of that new rank and file are clearly left moving workers and quite poor. The ANC’s membership is moving in the opposite direction, dropping from just over 1.2-million in 2012 to 769,000 in 2015, particularly after the defection/expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu.
The ANC got 62% of the vote in 1994, it increased to 68% under Mbeki in 1999 but was back to 62% in 2014 and to 54% in the local elections of 2016. The DA got a record 26.9% then, the Economic Freedom Fighters, expelled from the ANC in 2012, increased to 8.2% and Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party got 4.25%; these all are locally concentrated so resulted in many seats. The ANC lost control of three metropolitan municipalities; Nelson Mandela Bay, City of Tshwane and City of Johannesburg. The decline in ANC support was most significant in urban areas, with the ANC losing its outright majority in 4 of the country’s 8 metropolitan municipalities for the first time since 1994. The loss of the votes of the urban working class is a very worrying sign for the ANC and surely here is where the SACP will step in with the most to gain. It is not certain Ramaphosa will reverse that trend.
Vavi and Jim, Numsa and Saftu
Cosatu expelled the 340, 000-strong National Union of Metal Workers (Numsa) on 8 November 2014 following its 2013 decision not to support the ANC in the 2014 elections. Numsa is the biggest single trade union in South Africa. Zwelinzima Vavi, who had also supported the Marikana Massacre as general secretary of Cosatu, was expelled in March 2015. He launched the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) on 21 April 2017 with NUMSA with a claimed membership of 700,000. But the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the voctims of the Marikana massacre, will not join Saftu because of Vavi’s stance in August 2012, much to Jim’s regret. This makes Saftu the second largest union federation after Cosatu who claim 1.8 million members but that is declining. Numsa, under Irvin Jim, makes up over half the membership with the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), who left Cosatu in 2016, as the second largest. Jim and Vavi have threatened to launch a workers’ party to oppose the ANC since 2013 but have so far failed to do so. The SACP may then have a free run in the inner cities if Jim and Vavi continue to prevaricate over launching their workers’ party.
Zuma ploughed his own furrow
Zuma did not do as instructed on getting elected and sought to build his own power base in KwaZula-Natal independently of the WMC via the Gupta brothers. Once the agenda behind the ouster of Zuma was clear we should have given him unconditional but critical support, as we did with the ouster of Dilma in Brazil. Jim presents his alibi thus:
“Zuma was barely in office when, in 2012, it became very clear to us that neither the neoliberal policies nor corruption and all the rot which combined these two capitalist evils can unleash on any country, were abating under Zuma. Rather, we noted a steep rise in both evils. Numsa then did what any genuine revolutionary working-class formation does under such conditions: we called for Zuma’s immediate resignation and separated from the ANC led alliance.”
But he knew the score long before then and surely knew the same truth about Zuma back then that he knows about Ramaphosa today:
“That is why we have absolutely no illusions about what a Ramaphosa presidency means for the working class: the ANC government now has a man most favourable to South African old money – WMC and imperialism, as president of the ANC and the country. Furthermore, Ramaphosa is personally responsible for the mass murder of 34 striking miners in Marikana in the North West in 2012…”
Again, the ouster of Zuma was the victory of Ramaphosa, you cannot have it both ways unless you have a programme for the socialist revolution in a revolutionary situation, which does not obtain and which programme Jim and Vavi do not have.
Vavi was noticeable to the right of Irvin Jim in his assessment of the new Ramaphosa regime. Although he may seem to have many of the same mutually exclusive formulations of the ouster of Zuma vs the ascendency of Ramaphosa it is clear that he sees it as no worse than Zuma’s, in fact, a little better if it means an end of corruption. In a piece posted by Patrick Craven on 27 February the headline is: “Ramaphosa’s appointment has changed nothing – SAFTU, Federation says Cabinet remains rooted in corrupt and pro-business ANC led by Zuma.”
So here Vavi does not see what Jim saw, a significant move to the right. In fact, the worse he can say about Ramaphosa is he is ALMOST as bad as Zuma. Because the cabinet reshuffle:
“Vindicates SAFTU’s view that Ramaphosa’s appointment has changed nothing. He has reshuffled names but remains rooted in the corrupt and pro-business ANC led by his predecessor. It is a crisis in the whole ANC leadership of which multi-billionaire Ramaphosa was a leading figure, who never lifted a finger to expose and denounce the looting of public resources since 2009 and backed the neoliberal National Development Plan.”
When Vavi was general secretary of Cosatu in 2013 they posted articles such as “Dump the neoliberal National Development Plan (NDP) and Implement the revolutionary Freedom Charter!” Now he is still singing from the same hymn sheet about the workers’ party:
“It is now more urgent than ever to build an independent workers’ party to challenge the capitalist system and the ANC factions who now serve its interests.”
On 1 May, Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 1 May 2018
Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary declared that the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party will be launched this year. The statement finished by saying:
“The past 24 years have clearly shown that the working class must lead and drive its own emancipation and liberation, for Socialism. No one can save them, they must save themselves. NUMSA will be surfacing the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) before the end of this year. We have been working very hard on the ground setting up structures for the formation of the party. The (SRWP) will be a formidable revolutionary Socialist weapon for the working class and their families. Its role is to serve them and their interests and lead them to Socialism. The SRWP will finish the work of the revolution, which was abandoned by the ANC and its alliance partners.”
The three main principles of the party are inspiring:
That the Party be politically and ideologically independent from all bourgeois and petty-bourgeois formations, that it must be built in the vanguard of the working class, the industrial proletariat led by the metal workers and that the Party be a revolutionary party fighting to overthrow the ruling class and fighting for power.
However, while Jim pushes for the formation of the Party Vavi is keened on forming a mass working class movement between the trade unions, communities and the NGO’s sector. This is highly problematic as it is more likely to be a Popular Front with NGO domination than anything else.
Also there is a CWI Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) which is pushing for a workers’ party which is an electoralist pact and reformist in nature. On July 17 Sheri Hamilton, of the WASP Executive Committee, posted a piece on their website, the workers party we need. She hailed the national strike by Vavi’s SA Federation of Trade Unions on 25 April, said it was a “decisive shift in working class struggle. The estimated 100,000 workers silenced Saftu’s critics. Millions now look to Saftu as an alternative to Cosatu and as a point of reference.”
She went on to say:
We propose the new party works out similar demands for the struggles (1) to end unemployment, (2) win service delivery and houses, (3) high quality free health care, and (4) genuinely free and decolonised education.
A new party must allow for open and free debate, maximum democracy, collective development of a manifesto and programme of action. As well as individual membership, the party must have a federal component allowing for the fighting unity of existing working class organisations. The party’s leadership must be elected on the principles of the right of recall and that a workers’ representative must earn only a workers wage. The Working Class Summit initiated by Saftu for 21-22 July must place on its agenda the question of consciously filling the political vacuum with a new party – a vacuum Saftu’s own 25 April strike again underlined. [i]
This is definitively a pitch towards Vavi’s radical reformism and a rejection of Jim’s more radical proposals, which do speak of the need to overthrow capitalism.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) convened the meeting in Soweto on 21-22 July 2018 and issued a Declaration of the Working-Class Summit, which seems to bring the preparations for a working class revolutionary party, their declared aim, a step closer. Representatives from over 147 South African working-class organisations represented by more than 1000 delegates assembled to unite workplace and community struggles in the Working-Class Summit (WCS), we are told. The meeting adopted a very radical programme and posted the following:
A Workers’ Party and the 2019 elections
The Working Class Summit unanimously agreed on the need to build working class power in all workplaces, communities and society in general. A clear majority agreed on a need to build an independent, democratic and revolutionary working-class political party, which will be strong enough to conquer social, economic and political power, abolish the capitalist system and replace it with socialism.
It was agreed that the working class is decisive in bringing about a radical socialist change, because of their role in the production of wealth, but that it needs to draw behind it, and into the struggle, all the oppressed people. The party must be a voice for the working class, but it must also unite all those involved in the anti-capitalist struggles that seek to bring about socialism.
In this regard, such a working class party must work to unite the broadest possible front of existing working class formations, which will lead to unity discussions and joint programmes. A revolutionary party requires not just strong leadership cadre, but it must also be democratically owned and controlled by workers and not built from the top so that workers and communities become foot-soldiers rather than architects of the new party.
The need to create a Working Class Party should not be influenced by the 2019 elections. Whilst elections will always be both a tactic and the political necessity, the Working Class Party will seek to create a party for a fundamentally change of the power relations in society. We however will discuss the approach the working class should take on the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
The process of forming this party must also be open, democratic and inclusive of all the working class so that it is not run from the top down but is a democratic vehicle to unite and mobilize the whole working class. SAFTU in conjunction with the Steering Committee will ensure the discussion on the Working Class Party resumes and is democratically conducted in all the structures on the ground.
The meeting also adopted a radical Programme of Action. The first point was:
“We aim is to build a mass working class movement that is independent and democratically built from the bottom-up and to build working class power in every workplace, every community and society in general, to defeat the system of capitalism that has pauperised the working class across the continent and created the widest inequality in the world.”
A 14-strong Steering Committee was appointed, headed by Zwelinzima Vavi SAFTU General Secretary
The statement concluded that:
“SAFTU in conjunction with the Steering Committee will ensure the discussion on the Working Class Party resumes and is democratically conducted in all the structures on the ground. We call on all working class formations that have not yet joined this process to do so. Ours is a open democratic non-sectarian approach that will benefit from participation of all the organisations of the working class irrespective of their history or relations with any of the formations already participation in the process.”
How these two different approached will be melded together is hard to say. Certainly, Jim’s is the more radical. But his is also a left Third Period Stalinist political outlook which will concentrate on making sure control does not slip from his hands to “the Trotskyists” and the masses in revolution. Vavi’s is more Popular Frontist and seemingly more reformist but may mobilise masses sooner. Any Trotskyist in the midst of this political turmoil to come would have to be very careful in negotiating these choppy waters to the socialist revolution. But it really does seem the place to be.
[i] Sheri Hamilton Executive Committee, on July 17, 2018, The workers party we need, https://workerssocialistparty.co.za/the-workers-party-we-need/