Friday, April 18, 2014

Reclaiming the unions

 The South African general election will take place on May 7. In 2009 the ANC won 65.9% support - just short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. The 76% turnout was seemingly relatively high, but not so good when you consider that around seven million adults (23% of those entitled to vote) did not register in the first place.

A campaign calling for no vote to the ANC, which was launched last week by over 100 former ANC stalwarts, of varying prominence. Amongst them is Ronnie Kasrils, for 20 years a member of both the ANC national executive and the South African Communist Party (SACP) central committee,  who was minister for the intelligence services for four years until 2008  and has now jumped ship, much to the chagrin of the SACP.

The campaign is entitled ‘Sidikiwe! Vukani! Vote no!’ - the first two words being translated as ‘We are fed up! Wake up!’ As for ‘Vote no!’, that has been interpreted as a call to abstain, to spoil your vote, or to vote for anyone but the ANC. This movement is typical of the widespread, but largely passive, disillusionment with the ruling party. Disgruntled residents in a small South African town booed President Jacob Zuma. Rally-goers reacted angrily at Zuma,  left early and pelted stones at cars. In March, the crowd booed him again at a friendly soccer match between South Africa and Brazil in Johannesburg. 

 It is absurd to claim that the current period of neoliberal privatisation and capitalist stabilisation represents a “national democratic revolution” that is the “most direct route to socialism” in South Africa as the SACP desperately argues.  “The ANC has had 20 years to prove itself,” says Kasrils, but has failed to do so. He makes the obvious equation of Marikana, where 34 miners were shot dead by police in August 2012, and Sharpeville, when 69 peaceful protestors were mowed down by the apartheid police in 1960.

the SACP ‘communist’-led National Union of Mineworkers defends its members who are scabbing against strikers led by the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in the platinum belt: “we urge the law enforcement agencies to crack down on the sponsors and the perpetrators of butchery”: ie, strikers, who have attacked NUM scabs.

 National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and its general secretary, Irvin Jim, voted unanimously to break from the ANC and not to support it in the general election, making it clear that  the ANC is an agent of the bourgeoisie and that the SACP has betrayed the working class. Although their own politics remain those of left reformists such as former Brasilian president Lula.

While, of course, it would be highly desirable for trade unions to be “socialist”, first and foremost,  we need a united union movement that includes all workers, irrespective of their political affiliation.

Adapted from a Weekly Worker article

No comments: