NUMSA commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Open letter to ANC deputy Secretary General Comrade Jessie Duarte

18 March 2013, Posted in Gallery, Press Releases

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Dear comrade Jessie, ANC Deputy Secretary General

Your recent article attacking Numsa for its stance against the National Development Plan bears reference. Set out below, please find a response thereto.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) still subscribes to the National Democratic Revolution as the shortest route to Socialism and nowhere else. Numsa also subscribes to the correct slogan of the South African Communist Party: Socialism is the Future Build It Now.

What Numsa does not subscribe to is;

• The obsession with deracialising capitalism and leave the colonial and class character of the South African economy intact;

• Dancing to the tunes of imperialism in the name of “policy stability”, rating agencies and foreign direct investment.

The National Development Plan (NDP) is not the Freedom Charter, the two contain different visions. Numsa still subscribes to the view that the minimum programme which forms the basis of the ANC-led Alliance is the Freedom Charter and not the NDP. There may, of course, have been an Alliance meeting in which the Freedom Charter was replaced by the NDP, but I do not know of such, I plead ignorance on this one. I always thought the Freedom Charter provided the working class and its allies with “clarity of purpose and vision”, which Cde Jessie, you “just woke up” to discover, is missing “in the nation”.

I felt it proper to respond to you in order to correct what I think are the misconceptions you harbour and to fill you in on some information that clearly, on the basis of reading your letter, you may not have had time to reflect on properly. I do not have enough space in this reply and your letter teems with a lot that needs to be dealt with.

Having read it, I was reminded that one of the important things that revolutionaries do, when they engage one another, is to read. Reading is important because it is one of the ways in which comrades expand their knowledge, acquire information, and take informed positions on all matters. There are many more advantages that a person gains from just reading. It may not pleasant to many, but it is nevertheless necessary to read, especially now that we all realize that “education is an essential service”.

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In the opening shot of your letter, you claim that: “Recently, the country and the alliance woke up to news of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s (Numsa’s) rejection of the National Development Plan (NDP)”. You go on to call this “a strange development” on the heels of “one of the most extensive consultation process” that the ANC has ever embarked on. Allow me to share with you some information, because you were clearly not around when Numsa articulated its views in public on the NDP.

If you had done some research you would have discovered that Numsa has been consistently raising problem with the NPC since its inception. Numsa like Cosatu has been calling for National Planning to rid our country of Colonialism of a Special Type (CST) and the Apartheid Capitalism.

Our difficulty has always been the deployment of politicians and bureaucrats who were responsible for forcing GEAR down our throat. We raised problems with the NPC’s Diagnostic Report and went on to make submissions to the NPC. We never stopped making our views known in public.

You claim that the ANC embarked on the most extensive consultation process, to emerge with the NDP. In our understanding, the NPC never regarded the NDP as “an ANC process”. It appears not to be “a party political issue” because “some commissioners belong to other political parties” other than the ANC. You are therefore in error comrade, to “arrogate unto the ANC”, to borrow from the NPC’s Mr. Jele, everything that comes from the state, in this instance the NDP. It is dangerous to “sleep-walk” into such important policy issues such as the NDP and to “wake up” then to a neo-liberal offensive at large in our country.

One of the things you say in defense of the NDP is that: “Numsa owes it to the ANC-led alliance and to its members to go beyond narrow and inward-looking ideas and acknowledge the origin of the NDP as the same source as the RDP — it is the ANC”. How wrong can you be?

The RDP was drafted with inputs from all structures of the Alliance, even student formations participated. These structured were not just consulted they effectively participated in the RDP process. The RDP was supported by extensive research by ANC scholars and international friends of the movement.

The RDP process was not just an internal ANC process, it was a process that drew from, and inspired, the activism of the broad structures of the mass democratic movement. What about the NDP Comrade Jessie? In which Alliance meeting was the NDP hammered out? To our knowledge there was not even a single Alliance meeting to discuss the NGP, Diagnostic of the NPC and the NDP.

When last did the Alliance meet to discuss policy issues, let alone the NDP, Comrade Jessie? Perhaps to you and others, the Alliance has become nothing else but a conveyor belt and resuscitated into action when we approach the campaign for national, provincial and local government elections. (So that you know Numsa’s Central Committee of 4-8 March 2013 re-affirmed our position that we shall re-activate our internal elections machinery to campaign for an ANC victory in 2014)

You say you (and others) are not surprised that: “Numsa has always driven a populist, short-term vision for our country, a constraint we have lived within the strategic alliance we have forged with the Congress of South African Trade Unions, where Numsa is an important ally”. Yes, Numsa as an affiliate of COSATU remains within the fold of the Revolutionary Alliance. That aside, at least metalworkers now know what the DSG of the ANC thinks about their history, and a history of their struggles, since 1987.

You say we are populists. What do you mean? Your letter does not enlighten us on this score. In our understanding populism has a disregard for class interests, regarding “people, nations, society” as if they are homogeneous or, to borrow from Comrade Cronin, “monolithic”.

Cde Jessie, DSG of our beloved ANC, let me remind you what that wise communist of the movement, Joe Slovo, said about the ANC: “It is a revolutionary nationalist organisation with popular roots. It is not, however, ‘populist’. The ANC’s Strategy and Tactics recognises that there are different classes among the people with different long-term aspirations”. You seem to have failed to “recognize that there are different classes among the people”. Look at what you wrote: “[The NDP]…has been embraced by the entirety of society”, “Numsa is standing out like a sore thumb, against the grain of the entire nation”, etc. That is populism Cde Jessie. Your letter is a perfect example of how to do populism and of how to be a good populist.

You say the NDP will help with the provision of roads, houses, sewerage plants, etc. We do not differ with the provision of these things, we differ with the NDP, and we say the ANC does not need the NDP to achieve these things, just as much as the ANC did not need GEAR.

This once again shows that you may not have read the NDP and you are not in step where we are as Numsa in these discussions. You are writing generalities, platitudes, and you are not engaging with the content of the debate from at least how NUMSA views and critiques the NDP. What we have been debating is not whether sewerage plants must be built or not, that is a biological necessity.

The debate is about the NDP, whether it is a political necessity, a correct plan, if it is indeed a plan for that matter, to build sewerage plants, to borrow from you. The debate is about the ideological orientation of the NDP, its practical class implications, what should be the attitude of the working class (which is more than 80% of the population and the main constituency of the ANC), towards it.

You seem less disturbed by this “newfound” policy consensus between the ANC and the DA. The DA stands for everything that seeks to smash working class power, and it will do everything in its power to “constrain” South Africa within the Constitution of the then Government of National Unity.

If you quickly read on this matter, you would have found that Mrs. Zille called this consensus the “moderate centre” of South African politics or rather, the emergence of “centre-right” politics in South Africa.

Comrade Jessie do answer us this at least: During the 2014 elections, where does this leave your ally, COSATU, whom you never told that the Alliance is now newly-founded on the NDP, not the Freedom Charter? Where does this leave the working class, to which you say you are biased? What happened to the ANC being “a disciplined force of the Left”?

Comrade Jessie, let us remember what the ANC said in 1969:

“We have suffered more than just national humiliation. Our people are deprived of their due in the country’s wealth; their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The correction of these centuries-old economic injustices lies at the very core of our national aspirations.”

If you read the NDP, you will not fail to notice that at its centre, is the ridiculous and false belief that South Africa’s mass poverty, unemployment and extreme inequalities can only be sustainably resolved by “growing the economy”. (Redistribution once more becomes a trickle-down effect to address the triple crises in our beloved country)

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Now Comrade Jessie, during our struggle for freedom, while we knew and understood that economic growth was important for all economies, this was not our strategic understanding of the root causes and solution to South Africa’s development challenges – that the economy was not growing fast enough to create employment!

When we say that neo-liberalism is at the centre of the National Development Plan we suggest this;

• Trade liberalization (Allow imports and exports to flow freely in and out of the country)

• Financial liberalization (Allow money to get in and out of the country freely)

• Labour market deregulation (make it easy to hire and fire workers, wages must fall when there is high unemployment and rise when unemployment is low)

• Limited role of the state (privatize state activities, enter into private public partnerships, outsource so-called non-core functions, etc.)

• Fiscal austerity (cut back government spending, “reprioritize expenditure”, implement cost recovery policies on basic services, apply user-pay principle as far as possible, including through tariffs and e-tolls in order to pay for services)

• Tight monetary policy (inflation should be the overriding concern of the central bank, not employment or industrial development, interest rate is the primary tool to control the economy, interest rate must in general be above inflation)

• Central bank independence (no political interference with Reserve Bank operations, democratically elected leaders cannot use the Reserve Bank as an instrument to pursue the developmental agenda).

Lastly, Cde Jessie, Numsa issued a statement, saying that parts of the NDP were directly lifted from DA policies and that the entire orientation of the NDP is more DA than any other political party. You do not deny this, and neither do you confirm it. Instead you opted to accuse us of being “inward-looking”, i.e. sectarian, in the same way as the DA accuses the progressive labour movement led by COSATU.

It seems that anything that critiques the “new-found liberal consensus”, including the national constitution and “various pieces of legislation”, is inward-looking. But anything that agrees with the DA brings “policy stability” and “investor-confidence”, indeed, “for once” it unites South Africans in “a common vision”. Anyone who does not agree with this populism is “not in their senses”. No, DSG of our beloved ANC, I respectfully disagree.

With revolutionary regards,

Karl Cloete

Deputy General Secretary