NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim’s Political Input To The Conference For Socialism – Birchwood Hotel And OR Tambo Conference Centre

17 April 2015, Posted in Speeches

Members of the Numsa Central Committee Present,
Movement for Socialism Task Team,
Representatives and members of the United Front present,
Leaders and representatives of political formations,
Leaders and members of left organisations,
All invited guests,
Media present.

The problem of humanity and the world is well known: it is capitalism. The solution is quite simple and clear too: it is socialism. The real challenge, however, is to mobilise humanity to win the war to destroy capitalism and for socialism. Gathered here in this venue today and tomorrow, are men and women, political formations and organisations that can and must make a meaningful contribution to that struggle!

This Conference has gathered together some of the many fine and important different left and socialist political traditions and currents present in South Africa. For this, we are humbled and are grateful to all of you for honouring our invitation to this Conference. We thank you very much.

I believe we all have the revolutionary responsibility to work to unite the South African working class, all of it, behind a revolutionary programme for a socialist South Africa.

The tough, rough and long phylosophical, ideological, political, organisational, programmatic, strategy and tactics road we must travel to achieve the revolutionary unity of the working class for the struggle for a socialist South Africa and ultimately a socialist world, must be what has brought us together, in this Conference, I hope.

The President of Numsa has explained Numsa’s perspectives of the South African revolution  within our understanding of Marxist-Leninist political traditions. I will not bore you by repeating what he has said. My task is to explain how, organisationally,  our Marxist-Leninist analysis at Numsa has led us to where we are today.
Numsa has unashamedly a proud record of participation in the Mass Democratic Movement and the ANC led alliance up to the point of our Special Congress, 16 months ago. Thousands of our members and shopstewards, across the length and breadth of our country, during and after the fall of the Apartheid government, have participated actively in the struggles to end apartheid and to retain the ANC government. Others even lost their lives, in these struggles.

This active participation and support stretches well over the 27 years of our existence. For more than 18 years after 1994, right up to our 9th Congress in Durban in June 2012, consistent with our political perspectives on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), we urged our members to swell the ranks of the ANC and SACP. We did this consistent with our view that a working class led NDR was the shortest route to a socialist South Africa.  We still hold that view.

1. Four key historical moments between Numsa 9th Congress and the Special Congress in December 2013

1.a. Adoption of the NDP

The ANC led alliance has irrevocably changed the programme of the Alliance by abandoning the Freedom Charter. The adoption of the National Development Plan – a continuation of GEAR by other means – against the overwhelming concrete evidence of the failures of GEAR and its disastrous effects of worsened unemployment, mass poverty and extreme inequalities and against the demands of the working class in the ANC led alliance left us in Numsa with no doubt that the ANC led alliance and the ANC government were completely won over to the side of neoliberal capitalism.

The problem with the NDP is not a technical one. The NDP is the programme of our South African white monopoly capitalist class, its parasitic black and African elites and imperialism. The NDP is a programme to continue to feed profits at the expense of the working class. It is   plan that promotes and defends the interests of white monopoly capital, imperialism and the comprador black capitalist class, not us, the working class.

In the order of priorities of the ANC, the NDP has replaced the Freedom Charter. A militant, popular programme which challenges the colonial property relations in South Africa has been replaced by a neo-liberal programme which entrenches existing property relations and attacks the working class.

1.b. The deliberate flouting of internal democracy in the ANC

The ANC and SACP leadership demonstrated without doubt, at Mangaung, that they will not allow anybody else to challenge their direction on key class issues. For example, the National General Council of 2010, and the Policy Conference which preceded the Mangaung Conference, had a clear majority in favour of nationalisation. That majority was transformed by the ANC leadership into majority support for a fundamentally opposed class position.

The National Development Plan focuses on entrenching a neoliberal capitalist state.

1.c. Vicious attacks on the independence and militancy of Cosatu

Cosatu has experienced sustained, vicious attacks on its militancy and independence. It has become consumed by internal leadership battles between forces which have been won over to the neoliberal agenda of the ANC led alliance, and those who are fighting for an independent, militant, socialist federation. In the process Numsa was continuously vilified and smeared by those opposed to its Marxist-Leninist and militant approach, in Cosatu itself, in the ANC and in the SACP.

1.d. The ANC government attacked and killed workers on behalf of capital

Both at Marikana and in the farmworkers strike in the Western Cape, the armed forces of the state intervened in support of the owners of capital against striking workers. In both instances the result was the murder of workers whose only crime was to refuse to sell their labour for less than a living wage.

In the case of Marikana, the armed forces of the state slaughtered African mine workers in the interests of global and South African white, black and African monopoly mining capital.

2. The Alliance is dysfunctional

2.a. The alliance is in a permanent crisis

It is paralysed and dominated by infighting and factionalism. Dominant rightwing forces isolate or purge those who are perceived to be against neo-liberalism or to be advocates of policies in favour of the working class and the poor.

2.b. The alliance does not lead struggles

Although there are protests everywhere and every day in the country, the Alliance is not an instrument in the hands of the black and African working class struggling masses nor does it provide leadership to these struggles, which are largely leaderless.

2.c. The Alliance is just for elections

The Alliance operates only during election periods. It is used to rubber stamp neo-liberal policies of the ANC and not as a centre of power that debates policy issues and implementation. The working class is being used by the leader of the Alliance – the African National Congress – as voting fodder.

2.d. The ANC is the leader and strategic centre of the alliance

The ANC has resisted the reconfiguration of the Alliance into a strategic political centre where issues of policy, deployments into government and programmes could be jointly decided upon by all Alliance components. Our strategy of swelling the ranks has not worked and the leaders of the Alliance have implemented no significant resolutions of COSATU congresses in relation to how the Alliance should function.
In practice the Alliance is still in the hands of one alliance partner, the ANC. The ANC is the centre and implements government programmes and policies alone, with little or no consultation with other components of the Alliance.

It has made it very clear that it has no intention of allowing this situation to change. When Cosatu raised unhappiness with sections of the NDP, an Alliance task team was rapidly created and Cosatu’s unhappiness was parked there. It’s still sitting there. Nothing has happened, and the ANC and SACP will make sure that nothing happens.

2.e. This is a common development in post-colonial countries

The treatment of labour as a junior partner within the Alliance is not uniquely a South African phenomenon. In many post-colonial and post-revolutionary situations, liberation and revolutionary movements have turned on labour movements that fought alongside them, suppressed them, marginalised them, split them, robbed them of their independence or denied them any meaningful role in politics and policy-making.

3. Our strategic analysis of the alliance

The working class has lost the war to lead the alliance. Therefore, a socialist NDR was no longer possible.

The Alliance has become the political wing of the comprador bourgeoisie. The material interest of this comprador bourgeoisie lies in its attachment to global and white monopoly capital. This is a parasitic layer which depends on that capital for its existence.

In South Africa its primary mechanism has been Black Economic Empowerment. It is the interests of this comprador bourgeoisie, and its master, global and white monopoly capital, which now dominate in the ANC.

The Alliance has been captured and taken over by right-wing forces.

As evidence of this, it has adopted the strategic plan of that class – the NDP. Its leadership has shown that it will not let the small issue of democracy get in the way of defending its control. Its economic strategy has caused the continued poverty of the majority of the working class. Its class alliance with capital has resulted in the slaughter of workers.

It is clear from this picture that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense.

4. There is no chance of winning back the Alliance or the SACP

We cannot win back the Alliance to what it was originally formed for, which was to drive a revolutionary programme for fundamental transformation of the country, with the Freedom Charter as the minimum platform to transform the South African economy and society, thus creating the basis for socialist transformation.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) leadership has become embedded in the state and is failing to act as the vanguard of the working class. The chance of winning it back onto the path of working class struggle for working class power is very remote.

5. Effects of post 1994 neoliberal capitalism on the South African working class in general and Numsa in particular.

The overwhelming net effects of the post 1994 neoliberal capitalist trajectory has been to worsen the pre-existing colonial status and conditions of the black and African working class – unemployment, mass poverty and victims of extreme inequalities – and the rapid rehabilitation of South African capitalism and restoration to higher profits.

Massive export of capital – both legally and illegally, destruction of even the underdeveloped apartheid era industrial base, deregulation, liberalization, privatization and all sorts of neoliberal capitalist policies and practices have so worsened the already impoverished status of the black and African working class that violent crime and xenophobia have become a daily feature of black and African working class life, consistent with their continuing colonial status!

6. Numsa strategic response to the failure to secure working leadership of the alliance and NDR

6.a. The United Front

The United Front is to coordinate struggles in the workplace and in working class communities.

Its fundamental responsibility and purpose is to fight against neoliberalism and for the implementation of the Freedom Charter. It must unite working class organisations and activists on the basis of the shopfloor and grassroots struggles of the working class, not on the basis of political ideologies.

We have made significant progress on this work over the last 16 months, as delegates here will be aware, and its national launch is now scheduled for the end of June.

The United Front is not an electoral platform!

6.b. Movement for Socialism

In our Special National Congress we said clearly that the working class needs a political organization committed in its policies and actions to the establishment of a socialist South Africa.

To help us determine what type of socialist political organ we must champion, we have done the following:

1.      We have done work on previous attempts to build socialism as well as current experiments to build socialism.
2.      We have studied the historical formation of working class parties, including different type of parties – from mass workers parties to vanguard parties.

3.      We have conducted a programme of Marxist-Leninist political schools, culminating in an international symposium in 2014.

4.      We have conducted a programme of international study tours which we still have to complete.

5.      We resolved that this process would lead to the union convening a Conference on Socialism. This is that Conference.

6.      Next week, in another significant step, Numsa will discuss and resolve, the nature of the political organization it believes is necessary.

We look forward to learning the perspectives of all the parties gathered in this Conference.

It is our sincere hope that this Conference should begin the difficult job of laying the democratic foundation for left and socialist formations in our country to engage one another for the purpose of advancing the struggle for a socialist world and a socialist South Africa!

Irvin Jim,
Numsa General Secretary
16th April 2015.