- Strike again in September! Demand the trade union leaders name the date now for further united action.
- The ANC government must go! Build a unifying, democratic and open socialist mass workers party. Reconvene the Working Class Summit before year-end to set a launch date for the workers party.
The National Shutdown is potentially an important step forward for the working class. Initiated by the Saftu trade union federation it has given the final push to the Cosatu leadership to give-in to the pressure of their own members for action and call them out too. The Shutdown is acting as a lightening-rod for the anger across society at increasing prices, low wages, unemployment, cuts to services, crime, gender-based violence etc. Many communities have indicated their support and have also mobilised.
Worldwide, making the working class pay is the only ‘solution’ the capitalist class has to the crisis of their system, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. But across the world a new fighting mood is developing. The working class is on the march in their millions. In Sri Lanka the masses have overthrown the hated Rajapaksa-government. This is just the first revolution in what will be a decade of upheavals. The ruling class across the neo-colonial world, including in SA and especially the ANC government itself, has watched the events in Sri Lanka, their eyes wide in fear.
The National Shutdown must be seized as an opportunity to initiate a united campaign of rolling mass action that lays foundations for a single movement of the working class that aims to transform the living standards of the masses. To sustain momentum a date for further united strike action in September should be named immediately with a call for well-planned mass marches in all key cities.
However, it is not automatic that the trade unions leaders are prepared to make August 24 the first-step in such a campaign. This will have to be fought for. The Saftu leadership correctly appealed to the leaders of the Cosatu, Nactu and Fedusa federations to support the National Shutdown. But in Cosatu’s press conference on 18 August, President Losi dismissed the idea that August 24 was a “joint strike”. In saying this she is clearly out-of-step with the mood of Cosatu members. In both the recent Sibanye and Eskom strikes, Cosatu members united in struggle with fellow-workers who were outside their federation. Clearly the question of united strike action cannot be left to head offices. It will be necessary to build unity on the ground. Workers organised under different federations must come together to form joint strike-preparation committees that leave bureaucratic rivalries at the door and make a united campaign of rolling mass action a real possibility.
Such committees in every area, with shop stewards and trade union activists as their backbone, would be able to reach out on the ground to workers organised in other federations, unorganised workers as well as community and youth organisations, inviting them to participate in future rounds of mass action.
The public sector must be given special attention in future action. The current approach of the leaders of the major public sector unions can only lead to another defeat over pay. They have already made the fatal mistake of accepting the government’s argument that salary increases are unaffordable. The failure to turn threats into strike action in 2020 and 2021 has destroyed their credibility. There can be no confidence that the PSA leadership will not betray the current strike-ballot they have been pressured to call. The next strike in the united campaign of rolling mass action should be offered to public sector workers to compel their leaders to rise from their knees. It must be used for the legal strike that their leaders have repeatedly recoiled from organising – Defend public sector pay! For a public sector general strike!
Opposition to the ANC government and the desire to remove it has reached new levels. The Cosatu leaders are marching completely out-of-step with the mood of their members by continuing to defend the ANC. There is burning fury from Cosatu’s public-sector majority at their leaderships’ repeated capitulations on public-sector pay. Their stubborn defence of the Tripartite Alliance has not bought them a shred of influence! Even Losi appearing on Ramaphosa’s “Top 6” slate at the ANC’s 2017 Conference has not been enough. The attacks on public-sector works have continued to rain down and the anti-trade union amendments to the Labour Relations Act came into law. In reality the Cosatu leaders defend the Alliance because they are using workers as a stepping-stone out of the federation and into parliamentary careers.
Cosatu members must campaign for their federation to withdraw support for the ANC and leave the Tripartite Alliance. The workers who split from Cosatu over its support for the ANC in the 2014 elections following the Marikana massacre – which was ultimately a rejection of the Cosatu leader’s policy of class collaboration – went on to form the backbone of Saftu. In doing so they disproved the lie that it is “cold outside the ANC”.
Saftu’s July NEC statement called on the ANC government to “step-aside” and the 5 August Working Class Summit (WCS) declaration called on it to “resign”. This brings that federation, and the forces organised behind it, into line with the general sentiment within the working class. In the minds of all workers August 24 will be understood as a step toward this goal. But the question that follows is: to be replaced by what?
The revolution in Sri Lanka has again shown, like the ‘Arab Spring’ a decade ago, that overthrowing a government is not enough. Unless the working class has an organisation that can take power, one set of crooks will simply replace another. The working class needs its own party! Unfortunately both the Saftu and WCS leaderships refuse to give an answer to the question their own statements pose. They ignore the resolutions adopted by both Saftu and the WCS in favour of moving ahead with the creation of a workers party. The Saftu leadership should use the National Shutdown to boldly re-proclaim its intention to launch a workers party and its intention to announce a launch-date at a reconvening of the Working Class Summit before the end of the year.
Cosatu affiliates should be invited to participate in the Summit alongside a campaign on the ground to bring delegations of rank-and-file Cosatu members and shop stewards. The purpose is not to re-open the decision on creating a workers party but to offer an alternative to Cosatu members and encourage them to force their leaders to abandon policies of class collaboration in favour of working class unity. This would be a massive blow to the ANC government’s last foothold within the organised working class and open new possibilities for re-building workers’ unity across federations. Capitalism in South Africa and worldwide is in a total dead-end. Only the working class, taking power and setting about the socialist reconstruction of society can offer humanity a way out.