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The capitalist press and the Cosatu leadership are deliberately trying to depoliticise the current developments around strikes in the country. Gold and coal mining face strikes, the Eskom strike took place recently, the strike at the Mondi and Sappi papermills were over an extended period, the strike at Alexcor, a huge state-owned diamond mine was over an extended period as well; the engineering, petrol attendants, tyre and rubber workers all came to the brink of national strikes. The motor sector strike is on. The bosses in the clothing sector have come with low wage offers and there is huge dissatisfaction among workers in this sector as well. At the time of writing the clothing workers were balloting. An extensive strike at Iscor is also due.
So what is happening? The strikes or threatened strikes reflect a political realization on a mass scale among the fighters/vanguard of the industrial working class of the capitalist nature of the government. Through their own bitter experience workers are labeling the government as being ambiguous on not stopping privatization of Eskom while millions of people are without electricity, let alone houses. Since 1994 there has been a massive increase in unemployment while the demands of the working class have not only not been met, the ANC government is spearheading the capitalist attack on the working class. The cry of globalisation has been used as a stick to beat the working class to accept the most horrible of sacrifices. There is no alternative to globalisation, the capitalists said. But globalisation is nothing but the rescuing of declining capitalists profits at the expense of the working class. It is the route to the destruction of the fabric of the working class itself. The working class has realized that in the light of the current never-ending economic recession that they are faced with a life and death struggle. In this struggle, there is the increasing realization among the industrial working class that the ANC is not on the same side of the barricades as the working class. The dissatisfaction of the working class is reflected in workers labeling the ANC over their handling of struggles at Eskom, the municipalities, Telkom, Iscor[state-owned iron and steel monopoly], Alexcor [state-owned diamond mine], as selfish and anti-worker. It is also reflected in the Bredell land occupation, among others, and the formation of a landless people’s movement. The Cosatu leadership have attempted to deflect workers anger away from the ANC and the state towards the individuals running these parastatals. Even parts of the Cosatu leadership are forced to admit in the heat of the moment that the ANC is behaving no different from when the NP was in government. The huge anti-state/anti-‘system’ sentiment of the working class is being re-awakened, having been blurred by the whole negotiations process, and the TRC , HRC and multitude of Commissions, as well as the Popular front ANC government. In this sense, although the strikes may be over economic issues, they have a strong political undertone to them. What the strikes show is that although there was a period of political confusion in the minds of the working class over the political nature of capitalist democracy under the ANC, the working class has by no means been defeated. The working class is in fact on course for a direct clash with the ANC government.
It was this realization that made the SACP to hurriedly call bilaterals with Cosatu and the ANC. At all costs the situation had to be brought under control. Soon after the bilaterals the Cosatu leadership signed deal after deal, proclaiming victory but in essence doing their best to stop the wave of strikes. The most important feature of the July Cosatu executive meeting has been the absence of any plan for the scheduled 29-30 August general strike against privatization. There has been no widespread mobilization and there is no plan to follow up In fact what is implied in the postponement of the alliance summit scheduled for 18-19 August to the 22nd September is TO LET THE STRIKE WAVE SETTLE AND TO HELP DEFLECT THE POLITICAL ANGER OF THE MASSES AWAY FROM THE ANC. THE SCENE IS SET FOR ANOTHER SORT OF FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT WHICH WILL BE JUST ANOTHER DISGUISED WAY OF LETTING THE PRIVATIZATION CONTINUE. COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN IS THE ORIGINAL INTENTION OF THE LIVING WAGE CAMPAIGN, THAT IS, TO HAVE ALL MAJOR SECTORS NEGOTIATING AT THE SAME TIME SO THAT THIS COULD FORM THE BACKBONE OF A GENERAL STRIKE FOR WORKERS DEMANDS!
Another important feature of this period has seen a significant number of white workers going out on strike, against sweetheart deals as at Spoornet by Cosatu leaders [the state-owned railways] , and in solidarity with the Cosatu members at Eskom. The current free capitalist relations provides the basis for a broader working class unity that was very difficult before 1994.
That the threat of Ocgawu forms part of the Cosatu discussions, shows that the Cosatu leadership is afraid of independent political expression of the working class.
To understand current developments we need to go back to the period of the late 80’s. The period of 1985 –1990 was an (almost) revolutionary situation in South Africa. This was a period of virtual dual – power – many street, block committees existed throughout the country. In this period the COSATU industrial locals played a leading role in sustaining resistance against the system – the slave–capitalist state. This period could be described as having many similarities to the February 1917 revolution in Russia, when the Czar overthrown. What was lacking in South Africa was a truly revolutionary working class party. The SACP played a counter-revolutionary role through heading off the revolutionary thrust of the working class into negotiations to transfer government to the ANC, then a petty bourgeois [middle class] nationalist movement. The height of the mobilization of the masses, under these circumstances, set the scene for the rise of the Popular Front government led by the ANC. From the start this government was a government of crisis – sooner or later the capitalist nature of the government would clash with the demands of the masses. The bourgeois [capitalist] government was incapable of completing the democratic revolution precisely because it meant that they make inroads into the profits of monopoly capital: thus for example the ANC could not even implement the diluted program called the R.D.P: to redistribute 30% of the land in 5 years means going up against capitalist landowners; to solve the housing question means taking on the banks and property & construction magnates; to solve the nutrition & education question means putting massive pressure on the capitalists to increase wages (would someone who is guaranteed of basic food every day go and slave for a pittance from a capitalist ??).
As time has gone by since 1994, the Popular Front government has exposed itself, through non-delivery on the one hand and openly capitalist policies attacking the working class on the other. The ongoing mass demonstrations against the instruments of imperialist control, in Seattle, up to Genoa, although led by the middle class, reflect deteriorating conditions worldwide of both the working class and middle classes; the general strikes in Zimbabwe; the defeated public sector strikes, and at VWSA in January-February 2000, the mass retrenchment of 15000 at Telkom have all sharpened the exposure of the ANC government and sweetheart nature of the COSATU, SACP leadership. The 80th year of the SACP has seen top ranking party leaders, such as Radebe, Blade Nzimande, Moleketi, Yengeni, Erwin, Kassrils, Shilowa, Cronin, all openly side with the capitalists. These one the type of leaders who justify R238 million package to Coleman Andrews for selling off all SAA planes, while workers are starving. The SACP allegiance to Communism is really only for anniversary speeches, while openly and behind closed doors they seek the way to betray the struggles of the workers.
The COSATU leadership, which is steered by the SACP, follows a policy of the begging bowl with the bosses. This begging bowl politics has still seen a massive decline in the standard of living of workers and an ongoing bloodbath of retrenchments.
COSATU leaders are only leading/calling strikes because of the huge pressure of the working class. These leaders cannot be trusted to lead any fight. In fact they are deliberately trying to deflect the struggles into harmless deadends. This is why, after having abandoned Samwu workers to fight privatization, virtually on their own, the Cosatu leadership are suddenly waking up, not to fight privatization but to gain leadership of it and then betray the fight. Clearly the Anti-Privatization Forums are establishing a base among the working class beyond the control of the ANC-SACP.
The situation calls for a workers Summit , uniting all workers in mapping out the way forward, including an extended general strike against privatisation and for job creation! There should be minimal obstacles in the way of trade union unity [we say that as a minimum, freedom of expression should be guaranteed]. All industries still retrenching should be expropriated without compensation and placed under workers control. As part of their rescue plan for capital the government wants to manipulate inflation down to 3% or even less. This is why they are leading the way with wage cuts. Only the united working class can stop them in their tracks. We reject the concept of Proud SA’- we say we are proudly working class – the working class of the world should unite against all capitalists, our common enemy.
The essence of the strike against privatization is a political fight against the ANC government and its policies. Now is the time to break the chains of the SACP & ANC from the workers movement. Let us learn the mistakes of the 1985-1994 uprising! Now is the time build a revolutionary working class party. It is the only way the working class in SA can achieve its October! [Referring to the October revolution 1917 when the Bolsheviks led the working class to power over the interim government of the Mensheviks and the Capitalist parties who had taken over from the Czar in Russia]. Forward to the re-building of the Fourth International! We call on all working class fighters to join hands with WIVL in achieving these objectives!
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