"We need a movement for socialism," general secretary Irvin Jim told reporters. The party, to be called the United Front and Movement for Socialism, would be aimed at uniting the working class and mobilising around issues affecting workers. He said work was underway to mobilise the working class in all its formations, for the radical implementation of the Freedom Charter, the ANC's document of goals and aspirations for the country.
Jim said the leadership of the national liberation movement as a whole had failed to lead a consistent radical democratic process to resolve national, gender, and class questions post-1994 – the year of South Africa's first democratically elected government. He said the leadership was predominantly drawn from the black and African capitalist class, which "kowtows" to the dictates of white monopoly capitalist and imperialist interests. "It is half-hearted and extremely inconsistent in the pursuit of a radical democratic programme and has completely abandoned the Freedom Charter," he said. "We need to organise ourselves as a class, which is why we need a movement that will contest the elections at the appropriate time," said Jim.
The NUMSA and its leadership have indeed identified the solution to the problems caused by capitalism - a class party for socialism.
The Freedom Charter, adopted by the African National Congress in 1955, called for “restoring national wealth to the people” (understood as nationalization of the mines, banks and “monopoly industry”), “re-dividing the land among those who work it to banish famine and land hunger,” improved pay and working conditions, free health-care, universal literacy, and decent housing for all.
How did the main reform goals of the Freedom Charter come to be abandoned? The ANC hierarchy came under relentless pressure from local and international business, the pro-business media, foreign politicians, the World Bank and IMF. It was a process more of seduction than intimidation, aimed at integrating a set of new partners into the institutional structure and social milieu of the global capitalist class. Capitalists are often willing to accept a measure of social change, provided that they can set its limits and those ensured that when the ANC did take office it would be unable to act against white business interests. A new clause of the constitution made all private property sacrosanct. Power over economic policy was ceded to an “autonomous” central bank and international financial institutions. The mobility of capital and the globalization of the capital and other markets make it impossible for countries to decide national economic policy without regard to the likely response of these markets. And the markets punished the slightest sign of deviation from the “consensus” with capital flight and speculation against the rand. To win the markets’ confidence the ANC had to cast off its “revolutionary” and “Marxist” past. “Just call me a Thatcherite” – quipped Mbeki as he unveiled his new “shock therapy” programme in 1996.
It is not altogether fair to say that the ANC “sold out” and are traitors to the “cause" They simply saw no escape from the web spun by global capital. There is no escape. Socialists have long said that socialism cannot be established in a single country. Now we also know that under conditions of globalization even a meaningful programme of reform cannot be implemented in a single country. Capital is global. That is its trump card against any attempt to defy its dictates that is confined within national boundaries. The resistance to capital must also be organized on a global scale if it is to have any chance of success.
If a new government of the NUMSA’s United Front and Movement for Socialism tried to give its voters the tangible benefits they expected, the strands of the tentacles of world capitalism will also tightened around it and they too will discover that its powers are throttled.