The Democratic Socialist Movement, a predecessor of the Marxist Workers Party, played a crucial role in the 2012 mineworkers’ strikes for a R12,500 living wage. It was the DSM that co-ordinated the independent strike committees that had been improvised by workers at different companies, linking them up into the National Strike Committee (see here for a detailed account of the DSM’s role).
To even embark upon their living wage struggle, the mineworkers had been forced to smash through the resistance of the National Union of Mineworkers and its federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), both dominated at leadership-level by the South African Communist Party. Via the Tripartite Alliance, the leaders of these workers organisations propped-up the ANC government, whose police force, on 16 August 2012, at the height of the strikes, gunned-down 34 mineworkers at Marikana.
The DSM had raised the demand for a mass workers party on a socialist programme since the ANC’s 1996 adoption of the neo-liberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution programme (GEAR). When, in the course of the DSM’s campaigning, the idea was raised at mineworkers’ mass meetings, especially after the Marikana massacre, the mineworkers embraced it and made it their own. At a meeting on 15 December 2012 the DSM and the representatives of several strike committees agreed to found the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). The DSM’s demand was translated into action and preparations began to contest the 2014 election.
But WASP was not to be a party only for mineworkers. It was conceived as a vehicle for the unification of the struggles of workers, communities and young people. Accordingly it was organised in a way that allowed the affiliation of workers’ groups, trade unions, community structures, youth organisations etc. under WASP’s umbrella. The entire election campaign was organised in such a way as to unite the broadest possible layers of the working class, including continuing to reach out to the workers still trapped in Cosatu, and proposing co-operation with the Economic Freedom Fighters which was launched in mid-2013.
Following the 2014 elections, significant changes in the political situation and developments in the workers’ movement, which WASP itself had played a role in shaping, including the break of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) from the ANC and their expulsion from Cosatu, the consolidation of the EFF, and the suppression of the mineworkers’ strike committees by the rise of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the DSM recognised that the ‘WASP tactic’ had exhausted itself and in early 2015 proposed its discontinuation. It had achieved its historic mission and firmly established the idea that the working class must build its own party.
The struggle for such a party has continued, principally, in the new workers’ movement that began to take shape from the forces shaken loose from Cosatu in the aftershocks of the Marikana earthquake – first Numsa, and then wider forces, who together founded the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) in 2017. See Struggle for a Mass Workers Party for our analysis of these developments and how they shaped the struggle for a new mass party, including WASP’s efforts to collaborate with Numsa during 2012-15.
Given the significant profile that WASP had built in the course of 2012-14, in discontinuing the WASP ‘tactic’, the DSM decided to continue under the WASP name, until a split in 2019, which led to the foundation of the Marxist Workers Party (see here).
Below we have selected key reports, articles and documents, some unpublished until now, that allow the unfolding of the WASP ‘tactic’ through 2012-15 to be traced-out, and its role in establishing the idea of a workers’ party to be understood. The original publication dates are indicated in brackets.
Part 1 – Founding Appeal (23 January 2013)
Part 2 – Mineworkers’ National Strike Committee Backs WASP (11 March 2013)
Part 3 – Open Letter to Cosatu Members (14 March 2013)
Part 4 – Launching WASP: Sharpeville Day 2013 (26 March 2013)
Part 5 – The ANC Attacks: the Liv Shange Defence Campaign (June-July 2013)
Part 6 – Letter to the EFF (10 September 2013)
Part 7 – WASP Registers with Moses Mayekiso as Presidential Candidate (13 March 2014)
Part 8 – WASP’s Manifesto Launch (29 March 2014)
Part 9 – The 2014 Election Manifesto: Only Socialism Means Freedom (March 2014)
Part 10 – The “Vote No” Campaign (15 April 2014)
Part 11 – The 2014 Election Results – Analysis (9 May 2014)
Part 12 – The ANC’s Gwede Mantashe Continues Attacks on WASP (May-July 2014)
Part 13 – Metalworkers’ Strike: WASP Angers the Bosses’ Business Report (16 July 2014)
Part 14 – National Bosebaraad: Ending the WASP ‘tactic’ (18 February 2015)
Part 15 – The Bolshevik Turn: Balance Sheet and Lessons of the WASP ‘tactic’ (previously unpublished internal document, 19 January 2015)