- Reinstate the public sector wage rise! For a public sector & SOE general strike.
- For unity in action. Deepen the links between the rank-and-file of different federations. Create workplace- and area-based industrial locals to unite workers regardless of union affiliation.
- Convene a second Working Class Summit uniting all workers and communities in struggle.
- Implement the Saftu and Working Class Summit resolutions on the workers party. Cosatu out of the Tripartite Alliance!
Cosatu’s mass action should be welcomed across the workers’ movement. The lockdown paralysis, with workers fighting isolated battles, should be replaced with a united working class counter-offensive. Workers’ deepening anger and determination to fight back has compelled the Cosatu leadership to act despite its political entrapment in the Tripartite Alliance and their ANC loyalties.
The MWP applauds Saftu’s support of a united front with Cosatu. It offers unity in struggle with the Cosatu rank-and-file, will sharpen the contradictions between Cosatu’s membership and leadership and offer them a way out of the Tripartite Alliance trap. Those who oppose a united front because of the leadership’s betrayals, are in reality abandoning the Cosatu rank-and-file to their treacherous leaders. The leadership undoubtedly wishes to blow off steam, quell their members’ anger and keep them in the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance prison.
However, the united front tactic aims to promote Saftu/Cosatu worker unity, not to reinforce illusions in Cosatu’s leadership. We call upon Cosatu workers to in turn express solidarity with Saftu’s mass action campaign in particular the general strike of 2 December this year and the three-day general strike planned for March 2021.
Working Class Under Attack
The collaboration between the bosses and ANC government has reached new levels. 2.2 million job losses have been added to the jobs bloodbath already underway. Non-compliance with health and safety regulations continues to endanger workers health and claim their lives.
The government’s refusal to pay the 2020 wage increase is the most serious attack on workers’ rights since its walk out from wage negotiations in 1999. It is an attack not just on workers’ wages and conditions; it renders collective bargaining meaningless. It is calculated to set example for the private sector to follow.
This arrogance is the logical outcome of the ANC’s capitalist policies. SA’s capitalist crisis is worldwide and necessitates this offensive against the working class. It is a declaration of war carefully prepared with amendments to the LRA spearheaded by Ramaphosa whom the Cosatu leadership supported in the ANC’s presidential succession factional war.
The billionaire Ramaphosa has carried out the R1 billion mandate of the capitalist class. The LRA amendments are calculated to cripple the right to strike, so hard won and decisive in the defeat of apartheid. It provides for compulsory secret balloting for strikes, deregistration threats, limitations on picketing to render them impotent, allowing the government and the bosses to break strikes legally by unilateral declarations.
To try and crush any resistance, the government and the Cosatu public sector union leadership have colluded in expelling unions resisting these attacks from the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and sectoral bargaining councils by illegally raising admission thresholds and terminating subscription deductions.
The expulsion of Nupsaw from the PSCBC – no coincidence that they are the fastest growing union in the county! – as well as Sasawu’s from the Public Health and Social Welfare Sectoral Bargaining Council, the deregistration of Demawusa and the attempt to crush Sasawu by terminating subscription deductions, is a warning to the entire labour movement. These are the lengths this capitalist regime is prepared to go to dismantle all the gains over decades of struggle going back to apartheid.
Cosatu Leaders’ Cowardice
Weakness invites aggression. Decades of class collaboration, including the Cosatu leadership’s capitulation to the government’s walk-out from the 1999 negotiations, its failure to carry through the general strike promised to support the 2010 public sector strike, and their support for the LRA amendments amounted to an invitation to the government and the bosses to launch this offensive.
There was widespread working class support for a general strike in 2010. Cosatu’s surrender cleared the way for the ANC government to respond to the 2008 global financial crisis with a savage austerity programme, deploying the full weaponry of the 1996 neo-liberal Gear policy. It simply ignored collective agreements to, for example, fill public sector vacancies and imposed eye-watering cuts across the entire public service.
To disguise the massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich it has facilitated since its accession to power in 1994, the government devised “poverty alleviating” cheap labour schemes, like the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP). These workers are paid slave wages that remain below the slave minimum Ramaphosa’s government introduced. They have no collective bargaining rights, are victims of non-compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and are recycled from temporary contracts back into poverty every 12 months. Whilst hundreds of thousands of public sector vacancies remain unfilled, EPWP, Early Childhood Development and Community Health Workers are enslaved no differently from the cheap labour migrant worker system on which, under apartheid, the mining industry and capitalism as a whole rested.
Opportunity for Political Independence
The Marikana massacre brought the irreconcilable class contradictions housed in the Tripartite Alliance to a head, demonstrating like no other event before, the incompatible interests of the workers that founded Cosatu and those of the capitalists the ANC was established to advance.
The expulsion of Numsa from Cosatu was a political act, and placed on the agenda the formation not just of a new trade union federation, but the necessity to reclaim the working class’s political independence through the socialist policies the early Cosatu supported.
Saftu’s founding in 2017 represented a break from the class collaborationist Tripartite Alliance and was gigantic step forward… potentially. It was a recognition of the inextricable link between the struggle in the workplace and that on the political plane. It resulted in the convening of the Working Class Summit (WCS) in 2018. 1,000 delegates representing 147 community, student and trade union formations resolved to establish a mass workers party on a socialist programme. The delay in the implementation of the resolution has unfortunately continued the working class’ political disenfranchisement. Prolonging the vacuum on the left, it has created the conditions for the emergence of pro-capitalist reactionary formations like ActionSA and the One SA Movement.
Neither the EFF nor the SRWP answer the need for workers unity and socialism. The EFF leadership, mired in corruption, relies on the patronage of corrupt capitalists and propped-up the capitalist DA in exchange for corrupt tenders after the 2016 municipal election. It actively promotes racial division in the working class.
The SRWP unfortunately disregarded the resolutions of Saftu’s founding congress to embark on the road to a mass workers party on a socialist programme. After failing to collapse the WCS, the SACP II grouping in the Numsa leadership launched the SRWP outside of, and in contradiction to, Saftu’s founding congress resolution. Its dismal showing in the 2019 elections indicates that not even enough Numsa members voted for it to give it even one seat. The message from Numsa members is clear: the SRWP is not the party they mandated the leadership to form at its special national congress in 2013. Unless it joins other genuine socialist formations in building a united mass socialist workers party, it is destined to remain a Stalinist-led sectarian obstruction to workers political unity.
There is overwhelming support for a workers party. As long ago as 2012, Cosatu’s survey of political attitudes amongst its own members found 67% in favour. Animosity towards the ANC, especially after the despicable PPE corruption scandal, and the yearning for an alternative has reached levels surpassing those post-Marikana.
S’khokele Saftu – towards a mass workers party on a socialist programme
The historic responsibility to create a political alternative rests on Saftu’s shoulders. The capitalist class has no solution to the crisis except to step-up the offensive against the working class. All the parliamentary political parties are pro-capitalist – the main ones, the ANC and DA, deeply divided. Collectively they received less than half the electorate’s support for the first time in 2019.
Saftu’s establishment was a march only half way up the hill towards working class political emancipation. To complete that march, Saftu must urgently set a date to reconvene the Working Class Summit and implement the resolution to launch a mass workers party on a socialist programme. A party of action would act as beacon to Cosatu members. They are seething with anger at their leaders but need to be convinced that the Saftu leadership understands that its birth represented not only a resuscitation of the workplace militancy of the early Cosatu, but their release from capture in the class collaborationist Tripartite Alliance on the political plane.
The capitalist crisis demands capitalism’s abolition and the removal of their political representatives from office. Only the working class united has the power to overthrow capitalism and create, along with their class brothers and sisters worldwide, a socialist society. Forward towards a mass workers party on a socialist programme!
 Nupsaw – National Union of Public Sector and Allied Workers, Sasawu – State and Allied Workers Union and Demawusa – Democratic Municipal Workers Union of SA, are all public sector Saftu affiliates.