The following is the text of a pamphlet distributed at Saftu’s Workers Day event held in Pretoria.
FOR A UNIFYING & DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST MASS WORKERS PARTY – Set the Launch Date!
BUILD FOR THE WORKING CLASS SUMMIT 25 & 26 JUNE
A second Working Class Summit will be held on 25 & 26 June. The first Summit, convened by the Saftu trade union federation, took place in July 2018 and was attended by 1,000 delegates representing trade unions, communities, youth and other organisations. Most importantly the Summit “…agreed on a need to build an independent, democratic and revolutionary working-class political party, which will be strong enough to conquer social, economic and political power, abolish the capitalist system and replace it with socialism.” This built on similar resolutions adopted by Saftu. Unfortunately, these resolutions have still not been implemented and the workers party has not yet been launched.
The political organisation of the working class in its OWN party is now a question burning with urgency. The ongoing crisis of capitalism, already deepened by the pandemic is now worsened still further by the war in Ukraine. The ruling class continues to win battles in its war against the working class. There has been another austerity budget. The Concourt legalised the government’s theft of the 2020 public sector pay increase. The judgement was an attack on collective bargaining itself. Mass retrenchments in the private sector, such as those at Clover/Milco, are set to continue as the world economic crisis deepens.
The November 2021 elections, in which the ANC’s vote fell below 50% for the first time, showed again that the working class and poor overwhelmingly reject the capitalist parties. The search for an alternative was again on display. The number of independent candidates exploded alongside community-based parties. The ‘July riots’ and the emergence of Operation Dudula and other organised right-wing xenophobic forces, confirms that capitalist-reaction stands ready to occupy the political vacuum. All of this demands a political response from the working class – a mass workers party armed with a socialist programme! Despite lost time the re-convened Summit must be seized as an opportunity to SET THE LAUNCH DATE for the workers party. We propose Workers Day 2023.
The Covid-19 pandemic enormously complicated the reconvening of the Summit. But the most important factor at the heart of the nearly four-year delay was the ongoing factional struggle within the Saftu leadership. This struggle exploded into public with the attempted suspension of Saftu general secretary Vavi by Saftu leaders aligned with the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP). Shortly after, the Saftu NEC dismissed Vavi’s suspension as “unconstitutional” and suspended the four National Office Bearers who had tried to suspend him. Comrade Vavi has publicly confirmed that central to the divisions in the Saftu leadership is the question of the SRWP and the workers party.
A democratic and open workers party could UNITE the working class but the section of the Numsa leadership that created the SRWP is using the issue to DIVIDE workers. This only serves the interests of the capitalist class. We describe the section of the Numsa leadership that created the SRWP as an SACP-2.0 grouping because it continues to support the discredited ‘National Democratic’ stages-theory of revolution. This says that now is never the time for socialism!
In practice this leads to support for the black capitalist class and its so-called ‘radical economic transformation’. For example, whilst blocking Saftu and the Working Class Summit from implementing their workers party resolutions, the Numsa Investment Company’s subsidiaries, controlled by the SACP-2.0 grouping, have been funding anti-working class political parties, especially those aligned with the RET forces. All genuine revolutionaries should be supporting the political independence of the working class and the creation of a UNIFYING mass workers party. We appeal to SRWP members to support the Saftu/WCS workers party process.
At the beginning of 2021 the Summit steering committee commissioned five discussion papers. These are now being widely circulated in the movement. One of them deals with the workers party and makes proposals on the way forward for the implementation of the 2018 Summit’s resolution. This paper, in addition to dealing with the programme, ideological and political foundations, principles and methods of building the workers party, also ties together and gives a way forward to the other four papers which deal with various manifestations of capitalism’s crisis. (The paper is published in full in the current issue of Izwilabasebenzi.)
Because of the factional struggle in the Saftu leadership there has been widespread confusion about what exactly is being proposed about the workers party – its relationship to Saftu, its link to struggle, parliament and questions of programme, structures etc. Especially in Numsa this confusion has been consciously created by the SACP-2.0 grouping. For example the “vanguard” SRWP is falsely counterposed to a “reformist” and “counter-revolutionary” “mass” workers party. The hesitations of a number of other individuals and organisations in the WCS, blowing hot and cold on the 2018 Summit decision to create a workers party, has deepened the confusion. For example a “campaign” for a workers party has been counterposed to setting a date to launch a workers party, WCS participants create new ‘umbrellas’ for struggle rather than promote the WCS etc.
The workers party paper proposes a way forward that answers this confusion. Let discussion and debate finally begin. The discussion paper can only be enriched by such a process. But let it be about what is actually on the table and not the straw-men that have been mischievously created. The Marxist Workers Party fully endorses the workers paper – forward to a socialist mass workers party!
As a process of discussion and debate re-starts through WCS structures we encourage all Saftu members to read the workers party paper and all Saftu structures and affiliates to debate it. This is vital. The involvement of the organised working class needs to be strengthened. Trade unions should send delegations to the Summit that prioritise workplaces over head offices alone and shop stewards and rank-and-file worker-activists over officials. It is the social-weight of the Saftu membership that will make the re-convened WCS a success and a breakthrough for the workers party possible.