We wish to thank COSATU for inviting us to this important mid-term gathering, your Central Committee. You are meeting at a time when history is calling upon the working class of our country to mobilize even more to change the current accumulation regime underway.
Current working class struggles
It is clear that the working people of our country are once more stirring. They are re-affirming their legitimate, central role within our new democracy. The needs and aspirations of workers and the urban and rural poor must be at the centre of everything — if not, there will be no sustainable growth, no sustainable development, no sustainable democracy in our country.
This is what millions of workers said on June 27th in the COSATU-led national stayaway for jobs and against mass retrenchments.
This is what SAA workers and staff have been saying in their strike action that has caught an arrogant management by surprise.
This is what Pick-n-Pay workers have been saying to their bosses — you cannot expect to make unprecedented profits out of the hard work of your employees, and then award yourselves all kinds of perks, incentives and bonuses, while workers passively agree.
This is what municipal and mine workers are saying. This is what teachers and health-workers have been saying.
This is what ANC branch delegates to the July ANC national general council were affirming when they called for the reaffirmation of the ANC as an organization with a working class bias.
And this, interestingly, is what an increasing spectrum of broad public opinion is also beginning to understand. More and more there is the recognition that economic stabilisation and modest growth over the last decade has brought untold wealth to a privileged few, while the wage-gap increases, and hundreds of thousands of workers are rendered unemployed or casualised.
Increasingly broad public anger is directed, not at striking workers, but at management. Perhaps for the first time in our country, during the teachers and health-workers strike, there was broad public support for the demands of these public sector workers. In the past week, even the Business Day and Business Report are pointing fingers at SAA management and not workers.
The public groundswell is growing against gross senior management bonuses and so-called incentives and the thousand other ways in which the bosses in the private and public sector appropriate the collective wealth of our country for personal gain. There is growing awareness that an arrogant bourgeoisie — white and black — is incapable of offering a strategic way forward to address the challenges of our society. There is a growing public awareness that the bosses can only think as far as their own pockets. This public groundswell is not mistaken.
In 1994 workers share of our country’s wealth was more than 50% while profits for bosses were some 27%.
By 2002, workers’ share had dropped to 44%, while operating surplus for the capitalists had INCREASED to 33%.
In the new South Africa, capitalists, black and white, have been doing what they always do — they have waged a bitter class struggle against working people.
This is why the SACP says: LET US DEFEAT THE OFFENSIVE OF THE BOSSES AGAINST THE WORKERS AND THE POOR! BUILD WORKERS’ POWER NOW!
Make the second decade of freedom the decade of the workers and the poor:
What are the tasks
The SACP and COSATU agreed at its last bilateral that if we are to roll back the offensive of the bosses and take our country onto a higher developmental path, the struggle is to make the second decade of freedom — a decade of the workers and the poor. Both formations are in this regard guided by their respective programmes: the SACP’s Medium Term Vision and COSATU’s 2015 Plan.
What is the SACP’s medium term vision for the second decade of our freedom? Our medium term strategic perspectives derives from our assessment of the first decade of freedom, as captured in our Congress declaration:
"There have been many important gains (during the first decade of our democracy) notably the consolidation of non-racial democracy, the enshrinement of basic worker rights, and the transfer of significant resources to workers and the poor (including low-cost housing, water, electricity, health care and social grants). Indeed the SACP and workers take pride in the role that we have played, together with our alliance partners, in winning these achievements in and through ongoing struggle.
"However our society continues to be dominated by a brutal and inhumane capitalist accumulation regime. It is an accumulation path that has remained fundamentally untransformed, notwithstanding our democratic breakthrough."
What the SACP Special National Congress was capturing was that while many of the developments in our society over the last decade reflect broader processes in globalised capitalism, we have not used our majority political power with sufficient determination and strategic effectiveness to alter the persisting accumulation regime. Congress felt that our government has often pursued too much of market-friendly policies, which have ended up benefiting the capitalist bosses, with workers bearing the brunt of this brutal, untransformed accumulation regime.
In other words the crux of the matter is, there is a limit to which the national democratic revolution can be further consolidated and deepened (including addressing the national and gender questions), unless the economic (class) question is confronted as the fundamental contradiction in South Africa’s transition to democracy. Given the economic developments during the first decade of our democracy, and the current wave of working class struggles, it is absolutely clear that the struggle to deepen the NDR is going to be increasingly fought on a terrain and crucible of class struggles.
Our Congress also further observed that whilst our democracy has "liberated" dominant sectors of the capitalist class from some of the secondary limitations of the apartheid era, capitalism has signally failed our democracy. What then is the answer to this crisis? The answer to this crisis lies in the mobilization of the working class and the poor to build their power in three critical arenas:
• The state — The building of working class power in the state is a critical, albeit, contested site of power. The challenge here is that of making working class power felt such that we build a developmental, interventionist state driving an overarching industrial strategy, rolling back the tyranny of the capitalist market, and pressurizing capital toward productive investment to create jobs and fight poverty. Current working class struggles should not be seen as parallel to this struggle, but an integral part, towards this goal. This also includes the struggle to build a powerful and democratic productive public sector. Therefore we should seek to harness them as such.
• Point of production — This is another key site of power. The challenge here is that of building and strengthening a progressive trade union movement, and challenging the unilateralism of capitalist management in its control of capitalist enterprises. This means that the trade union movement should expand its collective bargaining struggles into a broader challenge of contesting decision making in the work-place.
• Communities — Building working class power in our urban and rural residential areas is a key objective to realize the second decade as a decade for the workers and the poor. The key challenge is for COSATU is to ensure that workers are active in community structures and struggles (including the SGBs, CPFs, development of IDPs at local government level). The key platform through which to achieve this is for workers to, as Cde Vavi has been saying, swell the ranks of the ANC and be active in its branches.
• Ideological struggles — This is a key terrain of struggle that cuts across the above three arenas of struggle. We need to incorporate into our struggles increased propaganda against the capitalist system and its current accumulation regime, under the banner that "CAPITALISM IS FAILING OUR DEMOCRACY". We must also know that working class and popular struggles will always be met with countervailing opposition. As more and more public opinion swings behind workers on the limitations of the current accumulation regime, we should not be surprised to find rear-guard resistance and ideological reaction. In the current situation the ideological reaction often takes the form of belittling the aspirations and demands of workers and the poor. When we march for jobs, calling for an amnesty from the credit bureaux, our demands are portrayed as "unrealistic", "ill-considered", and now increasingly labelled as "populist". When bosses demand lowering the cost of doing business and the cost of labour, these are regard as "realistic", reflecting an understanding of "the broader picture". In essence the ideological counter-offensive is aimed at making the narrow interest of the bourgeoisie appear as being in the national interest, whilst those of the working class projected as "sectional" and "narrow". The notion of "stakeholder capitalism" is premised precisely on this ideological axis!
Deepening working class struggles along the
4 key immediate demands of the working class
If we are to achieve the above objectives, the SACP has identified 4 immediate demands around which the working class should mobilize and integrate the various components of its campaigns:
We wish to take this opportunity to salute COSATU for intensifying its jobs and poverty campaign. This is a central demand of the working class in our country today. Closely related to this is the continuing fractionation of the working class into ‘stable’ section, but with increasing casualisation and informalisation. This poses an additional challenge of how to organize in the face of this phenomenon within the working class, and the challenge of fighting for quality and sustainable jobs.
I think you should earnestly take up the challenge thrown by President Thabo Mbeki around the development of sectoral industrial policies in the area in which you work. For example I am passionate about forestry, and CEPPAWU needs to take a lead in this sector as it is being restructured. It is integrally linked to land and agricultural transformation in our country.
2. Basic Services for All
A second key demand for the working class in the immediate period is that of the provision of basic services for all. The recent protests about housing highlight the importance of the working class to focus its energies on this particular aspect. It is our task to ensure that we mobilize people around the provision of free amount of water and electricity, provision of adequate sanitation facilities and housing.
Organised workers have enormous organizational experiences which should be brought to bear on these struggles. This requires that COSATU’s call to swell the ranks of the ANC must be earnestly implemented so that workers are part of these important struggles where they live.
3. Access to affordable credit and financial services
We are pleased to report to this Congress about progress we have made in the SACP-led financial sector campaign. In direct response to our call and struggle for universal access to banking services, the banks have now launched the Umzansi account which now has 1,3 million new accounts, with about 56% being women account holders.
Through our struggles Parliament recently passed a new law on co-operatives, and there another law on co-operative banks that is in the pipeline. These are victories of our campaigns.
Currently there is a Credit Bill in front of parliament, some of whose aim is to effectively regulate micro-credit, including omashonisa and the faceless and ruthless credit bureaux. The insurance industry is developing a proposal for cheaper insurance products for the workers and the poor. All these are direct offshoots of our campaign. We wish to thank your support in all these struggles.
We however still have a long way to go to create a financial sector that is responsive to the needs of the workers and the poor of our country. We call upon CEPPAWU to continue to support us in the struggles that lie ahead. Without effective worker participation in these struggles we are not going to achieve our aims.
We are taking this campaign to higher levels through 2 immediate demands in the financial sector. Firstly, we are calling for a once-off amnesty for all those blacklisted in the credit bureaux, especially the workers and the poor. We initially floated the call for an amnesty for workers and the poor black-listed by the credit bureaux at our SACP Special National Congress in April this year. We have repeated and intensified the call to mark our 84th SACP anniversary. And we have now already achieved our first objectives in making this admittedly bold demand.
In the last few days, the credit bureaux, which have been hiding inscrutably in the deepest of bunkers, have come stumbling out, hands in the air, crying "don’t shoot, don’t shoot — we’re just the messengers." This is already progress. Our campaign has forced these institutions, often literally holding the power of life and death over poor households, to emerge into the light of day so that we can all see them and hear what they have to say.
Government’s research shows that in our country over R360bn is provided in credit every year. But the poor pay far more interest for the little credit that they get — in fact the lowest income earners pay an average interest rate that is SEVEN times more than that paid by the rich. High income earners pay an interest rate of around 26% on average for their credit. The lowest income earners pay an incredible 175% average interest rate!
The majority of black-listed are poor and their plight is forcing them into the hands of unscrupulous loan sharks and thus into deeper financial crisis. Such a high level of black-listed is also seriously undermining many progressive interventions by government around housing and SMME support. The crisis of indebtedness of poor households is a ticking time-bomb, an unsustainable reality that must be addressed with a sense of urgency.
The second demand is that of the development of a new model for financing low-cost housing by the banks. The 20 year mortgage bond calculated on compound interest is inappropriate for low cost housing. If the banks developed Umzansi, we need an Umzansi for low-cost housing, that is, shorter but affordable payment period, for houses to be paid ideally in less than 10 years.
We are embarking pickets and demonstrations to advance these demands and we call upon you to continue to support us.
4. Accelerated land and agrarian transformation
to benefit farmworkers and the landless
On our land and agrarian transformation campaign we have already achieved the first important achievement in this regard, the recent holding of the National Land Summit. It was a Summit that the SACP has been calling for in the course of our land and agrarian campaign. Part of the success of the Summit is attributable to the fact that it was preceded by a number of provincial land summits.
Key resolutions of the Summit were the rejection of the willing-buyer willing-seller principle, the need for a review of foreign land ownership, and the general call for government to come up with a new strategy to accelerate land and agrarian reform.
The SACP believes that the priority is now to take forward the post-Summit processes. The jost critical challenge is that of ensuring the building of People’s Land Committees, so that implementation of the resolutions is driven forward by local communities themselves. Capacity within government departments will also have to be looked at very seriously.
The SACP has been calling for the role of the Land Bank to be reviewed to ensure that its mandate extends much more actively to assisting small-scale farming including co-ops. We believe that land and agrarian transformation must be incorporated into all local Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). CEPPAWU has a definite role to play in this regard.
Challenges facing COSATU and the working class in general
Arising out of the above there are a number of challenges that face COSATU in particular. An immediate challenge is that of analysing the recent ANC NGC, as its resolutions provide a key platform for taking forward the struggles of organised workers. The key resolutions of the NGC come after significant shifts we have been observing on government policy, away from privatisation and more emphasis on the role of the state in the economy.
The assertion that a particular national conference or event was "historic" is common-place and often little more than ritualistic. It IS appropriate, however, to refer to the ANC’s 2005 NGC as "historic". Or, perhaps more accurately, this NGC and its consequences are full of significant potential — and this potential can be consolidated and carried forward, provided we all, collectively, give coherent and programmatic expression to the underlying issues affirmed by the great majority of NGC delegates.
In essence the NGC marked the growing appreciation (by several thousand of the ANC’s leading cadres) of the limitations and failings of a particular dominant trend in our movement since the mid-1990s. This political trend has involved several key dimensions, including:
• a socio-economic programme based around modernising (but not transforming) the dominant capitalist accumulation path, aligning it with global "realities" in order to secure stability and capitalist-driven market growth of 6% that will (it has been assumed) provide the means for a progressive social redistributive programmes; In essence this trend has allowed, and in some instances, reinforced the dominance of the capitalist market in South African society.
• the overarching objective of 6% (capitalist) growth is also premised on an excessively optimistic expectation of major capital flows from the North. This is where the sobering, but predictable, outcome of the G8 Gleneagles Summit (dealt with below) intersects with the gathering crisis of this project;
• transforming the ANC into a political instrument to support this economic programme — turning the ANC into a "modern" electoral/governing party, with the emphasis on managerial and technical skills, and downplaying the mass character of the ANC built on ongoing mass campaigns.
• an implicit cadre policy to support all of the above — in which a new managerial cadre is fostered within the organisation and within the state and parastatal sector — this is a cadre whose sections have developed or are developing close and symbiotic links to private capital, especially emerging black capital. Some of the consequences of this phenomenon was covered at some length by ANC Secretary General in his organisational report to the NGC, including growing corruption, gate-keeping and patronage. This is a document worth studying closely by all of us.
Each of these components of this trend have produced their own contradictions — the present capitalist accumulation path (even if it achieves a 6% growth rate) is clearly incapable of resourcing the kind of redistribution that would be necessary to overcome our crisis of underdevelopment. Marshall Aid is never going to be directed to South Africa in the current global dispensation, as illustrated by this minimal aid/cancellation of debt by the recent Gleneagles G8 Summit.
The SACP CC held last noted with appreciation the very robust and open debate at the NGC and the many important resolutions taken there, including:
• an overwhelming and considered rejection of free market assumptions, whether in regard to land reform or labour market deregulation;
• a related affirmation of the need to build a strong, worker and poor biased developmental state;
• the commitment to upholding and strengthening the ANC as a mass-based liberation movement rooted in its branch structures, an organisation that fosters internal democracy and localised popular mobilisation;
• the resounding re-affirmation of the importance and centrality of the Alliance, and of the need to foster a deepening unity in action.
In regard to socio-economic transformation, the NGC commissions rejected the labour-market flexibility proposals that were at the heart of the discussion document. The NGC confirmed the deepening consensus around the need for an active, developmental state and for state-led industrial policy. However, it also went further to begin to challenge a particular ("Malaysian"/patriotic bourgeoisie) version of the developmental state and industrial policy.
In fact the notion of ‘stakeholder capitalism’ being advanced by some of our comrades is nothing but an attempt to argue for a developmental state that is principally based on an alliance between the state and capital (including black sections of the capitalist class). This is hoped would have enough trickle down that will create and sustain jobs.
The challenge for the working class today is to build on the positive resolutions around a developmental state, and seek to build a developmental state whose foundations must be a stronger relationship between the state and the working class. It should be within this framework that such a state should engage capital.
We also welcome the ANC NGC re-affirmation of the working class as the main motive force of the revolution and defining the ANC as an organization with a bias towards the working class. This is important particularly in the light of attempts, since 1996, in line with the dominant trend we have identified above to regard aljost every class force as a motive force (the petty bourgeoisie, the middle class and even the black sections of the black capitalist class). This was an attempt to gradually sideline the working class as the principal motive force of the revolution.
The challenge for the working class is to build its political capacity in order to act as such a motive force. This crucially involves the strengthening of the trade union movement as the jost critical layer of the working class.
On some contemporary Southern African challenges
An area that the SACP and COSATU need to deepen their co-operation is around international work. The SACP is of the view that we need to co-ordinate around our work, as a start, in the Southern African region. The challenge is that of creating sustainable worker and working class networks and platforms to exchange views on the challenges facing the working class and the national liberation movements post-independence.
It is from this standpoint that we should be engaging for instance with the continuing problem of lack of democracy in Swaziland and the continuing crisis in Zimbabwe, as instances of incomplete or faltering liberation project in the region.
On Swaziland the SACP rejects the socalled new constitution in that country as nothing more than a farce to continue with autocratic monarchical rule. We will continue to express our solidarity with the workers and the poor of Swaziland and intensify our work with the democratic forces there.
The latest developments in Zimbabwe continue to be of concern to us. We wish to condemn the operation clean-up as a continuing assault on the means of livelihood for the workers and the poor of that country. The SACP has noted the South African government’s recent engagement with their Zimbabwean counterparts around the possibility of extending a credit line to address the financial crisis in Zimbabwe.
We agree with our government that, as South Africans, both for moral and pragmatic reasons, we cannot just sit back while our neighbouring country implodes. It is, therefore, correct to explore a wide range of possible interventions and engagements, from government interaction to people-to-people solidarity. The possibility of assisting with a loan should be seen within such a context.
We are, however, extremely concerned about the danger of a loan amounting to little more than extending the crisis-ridden shelf-life of anti-worker, anti-poor authoritarian policies and practices. We call on our own government to show the maximum resolve in ensuring that there are very clear requirements attached to any loan. These requirements must include guarantees that the loan will not be squandered on elite consumption or repression. But the requirements must also embrace a much wider package of commitments with clear time-lines. These wider issues must include:
• an immediate halt to the wanton destruction of homes and community facilities;
• the scrapping of anti-democratic legislation, including legislation directed against the right to assembly and against media freedom;
• an inclusive negotiation process on constitutional reform.
These wider issues are, in fact, essential for resolving the present financial crisis. There is no sustainable path out of this crisis without creating the conditions for an open and patriotic intra-Zimbabwean dialogue that draws in the political parties, the trade union movement, the faith-based and other key sectoral and social movements.
The CC further welcomed the initiative of the South African Council of Churches as an important contribution to people-to-people contact and solidarity between South Africans and Zimbabweans. As the SACP we have always called for an increase in such activities, and that as South Africans we must not be selective in this regard. Church-to-church contact is as important and legitimate just as worker and trade union solidarity is between South African trade unions and its counterparts in the region without any imputation of secret agendas in such solidarity.
With these words we wish you a successful CC.