This exposition was first published on the 9th September 2010 in The Bottomline, the YCLSA publication.
In the SACP’s Bua Komanisi Bulletin of 2007 Issue No 2, Volume 6, Page 11; it is resuscitated that “the key motive force of the struggle for the African revolution, and for different socialist world remains the working class.” On the question of what composes the key motive force of our National Democratic Revolution I elect to agree with the aforesaid assertion. On the same tandem, it is befitting to affirm that the working class is the key motive force of both the national liberation struggle and the class struggle. However, this affirmation should not be confusingly understood within a naïve context which narrowly views the National Democratic Revolution as an end in itself and thereby viewing the class struggle (struggle to build socialism as building block towards communism) as distant future totally separated from the NDR. There should never be and there is no superfluous politico-economic distance between the national struggle and the class struggle.
It has been said, tested and correctly proven in more ways than one that the struggle for national liberation against colonialism and other forms of barbaric national oppression can never be isolated from an intrinsic struggle against class exploitation as the principal foundation of all oppression in various societies. As for the formerly colonized countries like ours (SA), to disconnect national struggle from class struggle is to be raw. Pity is that our democratic dispensation was embedded on a negotiated settlement and our ‘revered’ constitution remains a bulwark of this negotiated outcome. But our constitution is also not mechanically Catholic or caste in stone; it can be radically implemented and also changed for the better.
For democracy to be true, it should find expression even on property relations and economic emancipation of the majority. In the interest of the majority, democracy should serve. Such service should cut across all spheres of human existence. In South Africa, the Democratic Alliance, faith-based organizations, media gurus, COPE and others assert themselves as defenders of democracy and our constitution. Their gospel relationship with and defense for democracy and the constitution does not in anyway relate with the total economic emancipation, ownership and control of the key levers of the economy by the downtrodden majority in a democratic state like ours. A workers’ state is not in their vocabulary, not in the state of their minds. They petrify the helpless and vulnerable working class including the reserved labour force (the unemployed because of the evil system of capitalism) to obtain the so-called black vote under the guise of democracy. Media houses, by their very nature, embark on concerted cause to sell their stories by presenting the ‘ugliness’ of workers struggles during strikes and even present themselves as the most caring in relation to the right of those who are not part of the strikes and those negatively affected by workers’ strikes. It would not surprise many of us to hear Helen Zille loosely pronouncing herself on the tightening and amendment of the Labour Relations Act so as to limit the hard-earned workers’ right to strike. Though she tries hard to convince the people of South Africa that she was also part of the anti-apartheid activists, Helen Zille has nothing to show whenever she opens her mouth and whenever she portrays herself in public that she was indeed an anti-apartheid activist. Her gestures and her hypocrisy shall never always mislead the minds and hearts of our people. It should be maintained that the DA she leads remains not only a social force of counter-revolution, but an elementary element of our class enemies.
The role of workers in the struggle for democracy and economic emancipation remains one of our uncontestable heritage not only here in South Africa but in Africa and abroad. The emphasis on better working conditions and a living wage is but one element within the broader challenge that faces the workers in general. Such emphasis can never be separated from a concerted conviction of the exploited working men and women to fight against capitalism as an economic system which breeds their exploitation. For any conscious working class revolutionary, it becomes obligatory for her to apply relevant tools of analysis when depicting a particular illustration of a reality that engulfs not only the society in general but the working class in particular under capitalist enslavement. At the avail of the working class are Marxist tools of analysis that embody both theory and practice. It is the basic task of every conscious working class revolutionary to disseminate (with simplicity) both the scourge of the capitalist economic system as it finds its prolongation through liberalism and the well of communist economic system as it finds its expression through collective ownership and control of the means of production, dissuading the exploitation of one class by another. Not in any given moment would such endeavors be reduced to workerism.
The predecessors of COSATU namely; SACTU and FOSATU had always stroked a balance between workplace struggles for better pay and working conditions and the broader struggle against national oppression and class exploitation. The Durban strike of 1973 (in which 100 000 workers took part) presented a critical lesson in shaping the role and outlook of the South African trade union movement. Though it (1973 strike) allotted certain elements of workerism influenced by a tiny minority of academic Marxists who posed as the think tank of trade unionism at the time, this massive revolutionary exploit was able to shake the apartheid regime. SACTU’s commitment to the national liberation struggle was based on the fact that the apartheid state machinery played a huge role in reinforcing and maintaining class exploitation through the army, judiciary, gutter education system, Bantustans and other cohesive elements of the state including police violence and brutality. Many of the COSATU unions have out-rightly declared themselves to be transformative and socialist unions. Their scope of revolutionary compass has been broadened based on the material conditions under which they exist. Of note is the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union which categorically pointed out:
“NEHAWU needs to consolidate its socialist vision on how social services should be organized and delivered now…We have identified and argued for a critical role for the Public Sector in transforming the economy… we have argued for a transformative state that is neither maximal nor minimal, but rather a state that catalyses and supports popular mass participation in development and governance” NEHAWU Strategic Policy Framework, 1997-2007, Page 41.
COSATU itself has been able to galvanize issue-based programs with organizations in the form of NGO’s, pressure groups and other progressive formations in its commitment to fight against social ills in our communities and beyond the workplace. Such can be exemplified by COSATU’s role in joint-campaigns with the Treatment Action Campaign on HIV-AIDS matters.
In support of the 1922 mine workers strike, the Communist Party of South Africa made its point clearly:
“Of such situations the Communists, since the days of Marx, have always urged organized labour to take full advantage with a view to shaking the position of the ruling class and so facilitating a change in the existing order of society…And the more militant the struggle, the greater is the circle of workers drawn in, and simultaneously the more revolutionary becomes the aim, until it is realized by all that every road must lead to one goal: the end of the capitalist system of profit and the establishment of the Workers’ Republic of the World for the common and equal benefit of all workers.” Fifty Fighting Years, compiled by A. Lerumo, 1971, page 108.
Workerism had always been correctly dealt with in the ranks of progressive trade unionism in South Africa since the collapse of Clements Kadali’s anti-communist ICU in the late 1920’s. The same was the case when the UDF was founded. It is recommended that the UDF Discussion Documents are read in Umrabulo No.19, Page 39-44 for further clarity. It would appear very babyish for any leader in the youth movement to even begin to relate to the ensuing public service workers strike as harboring workerism. Even those who have never been formarly employed in their entire life can be able to detect that these workers are striking for a legitimate cause.
The fact that the apartheid regime was a common enigma among the aspirant African national bourgeoisie, the working class across racial lines and white economic monopolists does not necessarily translate to the fact that the advent of our 1994 democratic breakthrough was an end in itself. Many of those forces who fought side by side with the working class against an apartheid regime have become ardent covert and overt enemies of the very working class today. When the NP’s apartheid regime was at the helm of power, few of white monopolists were able to enter into trade agreements internationally. Among other things, this was due to the fact that apartheid South Africa was economically isolated by the developed world in terms of economic cooperation and international trade through economic sanctions. There was even sheer racial discrimination within the Christian fraternity, in sports and in all areas of human existence hence the apartheid regime became the enemy of all democratic forces internally and abroad.
An ambience of economic supremacy among the wealthy South Africans who happen to be dominantly white remains a driving force of their attitude towards the struggle for socio-economic emancipation. The advent of our 1994 democratic breakthrough presented widest range of economic opportunities for white business monopolists internally and abroad. Their lip-service in the so-called fight against inequality through their small opposition parties represents a taming solace through which they seek to entrench and sustain their political and economic dominance.
It so happens that the aforementioned ambiance begins to be inherited by those within our own liberation movement, trying to de-racialise the economic concentration of our country so as to accommodate their narrow interests, being co-opted by the well established multinational corporations through the so-called joint-business ventures in construction, security services, freight and logistics, information technology and even in the mining sector, just to mention the least. While masquerading as victors of the poor and the working class, they try and find every trick in the book to castigate the sole vanguard of the working class, the SACP and its leadership. Their shortsighted memory deceives them of the role of the SACP within the alliance not only since the 1920’s, not only in pre-Morogoro but even during pre-Polokwane and post Polokwane. Little did we know their views on the role of the 1996 class project in dividing not only the alliance but the ANC itself and its leagues? Little did we know their ideologically coherence on their mouth-herring and opportunistic jostling towards Polokwane, 2007.
Their mumbling on nationalization of mines debate has turned out to be a political gambit with which they seek to draw attention from the masses of our people. Why the sudden emphasis is placed only on mines yet there are other key sectors of our economy which are environmentally friendly as compared to mining but still in the hands of the private sector. Why such a debate is not buttressed within the broader economic transformation agenda of our country. This debate has been put down the throat of young people and our movement as a position rather than a discussion for meaningful engagement. It is a debate of convenience.
People should not pose as adventurous revolutionaries in possession of a panacea to all our challenges, from leadership to economic challenges. People should not cartoon themselves by undermining senior leadership of both the ANC and its alliance partners. As they predict the 2012 ANC leadership outcome, it is known that they are not just interested in the generational mix of leadership; they want to position themselves in the levers of state power for further self-enrichment and consolidation of anti-communist propensity. Already, there is generational mix in the current leadership of the ANC from national to the branches. The membership of the ANC should guard against certain individuals who want to turn this country into a banana republic where political lunacy is an order of the day.
They even burble on reshaping and repositioning the Young Communist League of South Africa yet they are in troubled waters with themselves. It is known that their nascent opium to ‘reposition’ the YCL-SA is neither innocent nor pro-communist. Our class enemies and their agents need not to be identified from afar; some of them are within our own liberation movement. They can even co-opt some among our own tried and tested leaders within both the YCL-SA and the SACP for the sole aim of positioning themselves as all-encompassing political gurus. They are part of a social force of our class enemies. Whether conscious or sub-conscious, these forces are in for a fight against our noble cause, the causese of building a classless society. Already we know that our principal class enemies remain the bourgeoisie in the form of multi-national and local capitalist corporations but to undermine the role of their political agents is to be naïve.
The agents of our class enemies, knowingly or unknowingly, are also part of our class enemies.