After the 2024 General Elections: Campaign for a Socialist Mass Workers Party

The 2024 elections, more than any other in the democratic era, have highlighted, on the electoral plane, the sharp polarisation between the classes. The elections will be completely dominated by parties that, whatever their political campaign’s main message, from radical economic transformation posturing, xenophobia, racism, tribalism, anti—LBTQI, provincial secession or just plain unadulterated neo-liberal capitalism, are all anti-working class.

This applies to all the main capitalist parties, old and new: the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), ActionSA, Build One SA (BOSA) and RiseMzansi, the Economic Freedom Fighters as well as independent candidates.  The common thread running through the smaller opposition parties’ campaigns, old and new likewise, is the cynical political exploitation of the susceptibility, in the absence of a genuine workers socialist party, to reactionary ideas amongst sections of the downtrodden, marginalised and declassed amongst the masses.

Their campaign, dressed up hypocritically as opposed to the political and economic elite, provide a cover for the crimes of the same elite responsible for the disaster of mass unemployment, poverty, inequality, crime, gender-based violence, collapse of service delivery in housing, cuts in electricity and water, the crippling crisis in education and health and rampant corruption. They are aiding and abetting the oppression and exploitation of the working class by turning communities against each other on the basis of race, nationality, tribe and gender through religious bigotry. Their common slogan should be: “It is our time to eat.”

As we have pointed out before, there is an acute crisis of political representation for both the main classes in society: the capitalist class on the one side and the working class on the other. The capitalist class has been seized with trying to resolve their political crisis for over a decade since the outbreak of the factional civil war in their main political instrument, the ANC, at its 2007 Conference in Polokwane. The ANC will now possibly fall below 50% for the first time in 30 years. It will be compelled into forming a coalition, heralding a new period of political instability.

Crisis of political representation for the capitalist class

The capitalist class has recognised that the law of diminishing returns in its investment in its main instrument of rule since apartheid’s end, the ANC, has now been eroded to the point where its electoral appeal could result in it losing its overall majority. They have also recognised that the possibility of the capitalist DA stepping into the ANC’s shoes as an alternative is an impossible dream. It was time to diversify their portfolio of political investments.

The strategists of capital first sprang into action after the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference that saw the ousting of their most reliable ideologue, Thabo Mbeki. They feared that his replacement, Jacob Zuma, a nationalist and tribalist populist could split the ANC and jeopardise the carefully crafted post-apartheid capitalist dispensation.

For the 2024 elections they have mobilised their political ideological and financial resources with single minded determination. The bosses have attempted to shore up their class’ political representation with the greatest financial mobilisation and political intervention since the establishment of the DA in 2000.

The half-a-billion Rand in sponsorships for their preferred parties and independent candidates is in all likelihood an underestimate. Compulsory declaration applies only to donations of R100 000 upwards. Donations of R99 999 therefore fly undetected under the compulsory disclosure radar. In a further subversion of the donation limits, they have spread contributions amongst members of the same family. The diamond dynasty, the Oppenheimers, co-architects of SA’s capitalist dispensation from colonial times, have led by example. The capitalist class’s intervention on the political plane to try and overcome their class’s crisis of political representation has unfolded over fifteen years. Their parties demand scrapping the minimum wage and cut public sector wages (DA), the insulting Social Relief of Distress grant (RiseMzansi).

Failure of efforts to create mass workers party over last decade

On the other side of the class barricades, however, the working class leadership’s ideological demoralisation and political disorientation is reflected in the complete disarray over what position to take in these elections. This is the case across the board from social movements, political parties and the trade unions.

Unfortunately, the trade union leadership has squandered this opportunity for more than a decade since the change in working class consciousness sparked by the Marikana massacre, created the conditions for a worker party.  Instead, through a combination of the actions and inactions especially of the two main trade union federations, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and, regrettably, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) the working class still has no party of its own.

As a trade-off for covering their embarrassment over the corrupt Zuma’s elevation to the ANC and country’s presidency, the Cosatu leadership turned to Ramaphosa to replace him as party president. They capitulated to Ramaphosa’s acceptance of his candidacy by conceding to his demand for amendments to the Labour Relations Act to cripple the right to strike with Thatcherite compulsory secret balloting and restrictions on picketing to allow scabs to break strikes. In turn, Ramaphosa would legislate a slave minimum wage.

Trotsky’s description of trade union leaders as “lieutenants of capital in the labour movement” (Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay), fits the Cosatu leadership perfectly. Their conduct has been completely in keeping with their role as strike breakers both in the workplace and on the political plane. They have been moulded into kitskonstabels (instant constables) of the capitalist class and their ANC political management, in SA’s capitalist post-apartheid economic and political dispensation.

Saftu fails to live up the workers expectations

Saftu, however, owes its existence to the seismic events that followed the mineworkers uprising and the martyrdom of the Marikana mineworkers. Having been freed from the political prison of the Tripartite Alliance by the martyr of Marikana, its role was to reclaim the working class’s political and class independence. It has failed to live up to this expectation.

Several opportunities have been squandered through:

  1. the 2013 Numsa special national congress’s failure to announce the formation of a workers party
  2. the failure to implement the Declaration adopted by 1000 delegates representing 147 community, youth, social and movements and trade union formations at the 2018 WCS Summit Saftu convened in line with its 2017 founding congress resolution to form a workers party
  3. Comrade Vavi’s June 5th public repudiation of the 2018 WCS declaration

In the next article we go more into how those efforts were squandered. Here we focus on how we should proceed in this election and what needs to be done after this moment in the political life of the country.

How should the 2024 elections be approached?

Unfortunately, there is no position from any of the Left formations and trade unions that we can support. The SRWP is now dead and buried. For the 2024 elections the Numsa leadership has now drawn up a list of parties that workers should not vote for.  The racist xenophobic Patriotic Alliance has made it onto that list of the excluded despite the Numsa leadership’s previous R200 000 donation to this reactionary racist and xenophobic party through the Numsa Investment Company’s 3Sixty Health Solutions subsidiary. The PA leadership‘s connections with gangsterism and its racist and xenophobic policies had by then long been exposed.

Far more important than those on the Numsa leadership’s list of the excluded, is which parties are not on it: the ANC, EFF and the MK Party. The implication is thus that the Numsa leadership which announced its decision not to support the ANC at the union’s 2013 Special National Congress and later manufactured the SRWP, now finds it acceptable to call for a vote for the ANC. This is just over a decade later, after the ANC’s even more disastrous rule. The political bankruptcy of the Numsa leadership’s could not be clearer.

The leadership of the120 000-strong Abahlali Base Mjondolo is formally affiliated to the WCS. Yet it has failed to provide any clear consistent and principled leadership. It has vacillated politically, swinging from supporting the DA in 2014, to the SRWP in 2019 and the EFF in 2024.

Suggestions that e.g. Zachie Achmat standing as an independent candidate is somehow socialist and working class shows how the Left’s ideological degeneration has led to a substitution of scientific Marxist analysis with sentimentality for class and ideological allegiances Zachie Achmat has long abandoned. Zachie, once of the MWT of the ANC, and Treatment Action Campaign leader afterwards, is financed amongst others by Michel le Roux – millionaire Capitec Bank founder, the country’s 5th biggest, and prominent and proud DA funder.

Saftu has recoiled from implementing the 2018 WSC declaration to form a workers party. Instead it has attempted to appear as not favouring any party. But by listing a number of criteria for workers to use as a guide, it has implied that there might be. The leadership does not have the courage of their political convictions to say so. On national television in May, Comrade Vavi was silent on the 2018 WCS declaration. Instead he betrayed his preference for the EFF’s populist 7 pillars despite its corrupt leadership. The very fact that the EFF has put up its hand to enter into a coalition with the ANC is itself a revelation of its leadership’s ambitions. It confirms that its somersaulting tactics since 2016, served, as we predicted at the time, their strategy to elevate its leadership into office and access to the levers of power for the self-enrichment at national level. Their record In Limpopo with Malema’s pre-EFF role in On PoInt Engineering, and after with VBS Bank and the metros, proves this.  

The possibility of any political representation from a party originating from within the working class, was finally crushed by the 8th May, 2024, decision of the Constitutional Court to dismiss the Labour Party’s application for the right to contest. The MWP condemns the ConCourt decision. It has deprived the 250 00 Amcu members of the right to vote for a party of their choosing. This enforcement of the Independent Elecoral Commission’s arbitrary and onerous amendments to registration and contestation rules applicable only to new parties, constitute an attack on a right fundamental to democracy – the right to vote. This right is meaningless without the right to choose. We do not agree with the LP leaders’ giving their blessing to vote for any party – a position no different from Numsa or Saftu. The LP was created to oppose these very parties. This means there will be no party originating from within the working class contesting the most politically significant elections since 1994.

Boycott does not change anything

The MWP does not support the practice of not voting, understandable as it is. The 40% of eligible voters who have not registered and millions of registered who will not be voting are either disillusioned, feel alienated by parties aiming to get their noses into the public trough for corrupt self-enrichment and do not have programmes that will improve their lives. Many who do vote see it a s weapon to punish the ANC, not out of support for the opposition. But such an approach amounts to self-disenfranchisement. It will not stop particularly the bigger parties merely from distributing the seats in parliament among themselves. Less than half of registered voters voted in 2019. Thus this is already a minority government of a minority parliament responsible collectively for the disaster of mass unemployment, poverty and inequality.

It does not matter which parties the ANC, likely to remain the biggest party even without an overall majority, forms a coalition with; the same neo-liberal capitalist policies will continue. Even in the unlikely event that the ANC somehow clings on to an overall majority by its fingernails the working class’ misery, now also drawing in the middle class, will not just continue, it will deepen.

Protest Vote Nationally – Vote for Bolshevik Party on provincial ballot

The MWP therefore calls upon voters to cast a protest vote on the national ballot as an active way in which to express opposition. Such an idea, had it been called for especially by Saftu and then WCS could have served as a mobilisation for the more important task of building a mass workers party on a socialist programme. On the provincial ballots in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, we call for a vote for the Bolshevik Party of South Africa.

Beyond these elections – a Campaign for a socialist mass workers party

Across all three theatres of struggle – communities, students and the workplace there is a rising combativeness. Evidence of yearning for unity in struggle has been repeatedly demonstrated in surveys and action. However, the struggles remain isolated within and across these arenas of struggle. The MWP is in the process of engaging other formations in the development of a platform of demands, a programme of action and a democratically elected leadership representing each formation to coordinate struggles in unity under Socialist Civic Movement, a Socialist Youth and Student Movement and a Socialist Confederation of Unions. The Campaign for a socialist mass workers party is to act as the umbrella for all three theatres of struggle to unite as a party of mass action and also on the political plane.

Capitalism is in its deepest crisis since the 1930s Great Depression. For humanity only the horrors of the genocidal wars in Palestine and Sudan and conflicts elsewhere across the world lie head. On top of these, growing inequality, attacks on women’s and LQGBTQI rights, and environmental degradation, threaten humanity and the planet’s very existence. The worldwide Palestine solidarity movement has led to a questioning of US and western imperialism and its global institutions. The way is being prepared for a return of mass support for socialist ideas. Humanity faces a choice between barbarism and socialism. Only the working class has the power to achieve a socialist society in SA, Africa and worldwide.

If you agree with this statement and want to help us to building a socialist mass workers party, or join us, contacting us by emailing us at; or calling us on 081 366 7375.