Organise Our Communities – Build a Countrywide Socialist Civic Federation
Organise and Struggle for Jobs, Homes and Service Delivery for ALL
Fight Crime & Corruption with Mass Democratic Community Campaigns & Mobilisations
The Marxist Workers Party is active in communities. In a number of areas we have led the building of broad community organisations, working to position them as reference points and leaders of struggle. Many thousands of activists are engaged in similar work. We believe that the time is right to attempt to unite community organisations. We are therefore calling for the creation of a countrywide socialist civic federation and appealing to community organisations to begin working with each other toward that end.
In this booklet we outline our analysis of the causes of the crises of poverty, unemployment, service delivery and crime that working class and poor communities face and a programme of action to address them. We present this booklet to community organisations and activists as a basis for engagements, discussion and debate on the way forward. We do not claim to have exhausted every issue. We offer our analysis and programme simply as a foundation upon which we hope to build together.
The crisis in communities…
Anger is boiling in working class and poor communities. Life only gets harder and harder. Millions of families struggle to put food on the table. Millions more go to bed hungry. Backlogs in house-building, electricity, water, sanitation, road and public transport infrastructure get bigger every year. Schools are crumbling and the health system is breaking-down. The disaster of load shedding impacts working class communities hardest. The youth leave schools, colleges and universities only to sit on the scrap-heap of unemployment. The despair of poverty and unemployment breeds drug addiction, crime and violence.
Everywhere the environment has been degraded causing destruction, illness and death. In dolomitic Merafong sinkholes are opening-up. Abandoned mines on the West Rand breed zama-zama horror crimes. In the Free State a burst mine tailings dam caused widespread destruction. In the Vaal, Durban and Mpumalanga, industry poisons water and the atmosphere with toxins. In April 2022 in KZN, 500 died in floods resulting from climate change.
The Zondo Commission has confirmed what communities already know – the rot of corruption infects government from top to bottom. Many municipalities have collapsed under the burdens of corruption and mismanagement as corrupt politicians and tenderpreneurs plunder public money. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people lay sick and dying, R-billions was looted through dodgy-tenders. The state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been bled dry too. Eskom is collapsing. Loadshedding is more severe every time it happens. But a war is still being waged against poor communities to make them pay for electricity they cannot afford, tariffs increased and working class communities cut-off for months on end.
The national ANC government has no solutions. It is stepping up the privatisation of Eskom and other SOEs. The minimum wage has been set at a poverty level of R3,500. This is 25% less than the cost of a basket of food for a family of seven which reached R4,475 in August 2022 and is increasing all the time. Rising interest rates will worsen the debt burden and increase house, car and furniture repossessions, and clothing account and personal loan defaults.
The ANC government’s only response to unemployment and poverty has been to create a vast army of slave-labour through the Expanded Public Works Programme and its sister programmes (CWP, CHW, ECD etc.). The R350 Social Relief of Distress grant is an insult. It is not enough to survive on for a week, never mind a whole month. But even this may be taken away at any moment. The ANC government passes one austerity budget after another further cutting the money spent on already inadequate service delivery, health and education.
In other words, communities have been abandoned by government. Drug dealers, gangs and organised crime syndicates and mafias have stepped into the space left behind. Frequently organised crime legitimises itself by working with different ANC factions and forming so-called ‘business forums’. Taxi violence is escalating. The reach of criminals extends more and more into the police. Underpaid, understaffed, ill-equipped and poorly trained, demoralised police officers have been captured by highly organised criminal syndicates. Police thus end-up protecting criminals rather than communities and become criminals themselves demanding bribes.
In the political vacuum created in this way, reactionary political agendas go unchallenged. To secure a base, the despair of the marginalised is cynically exploited to promote racism, tribalism and xenophobia, turning the poor against each other, dividing and weakening the working class. The xenophobia unofficially promoted by the ANC government has found its way into the manifestoes of new political parties, like ActionSA and the Patriotic Alliance. Nhlanhla Lux, leader of the xenophobic Operation Dudula, intends to form his own political party too. The so-called Radical Economic Transformation ‘forces’ devastated communities in KZN and Gauteng by detonating riots in July 2021 under the pretext of defending Jacob Zuma. Ahead of the ANC conference in December 2022, ANC provinces are openly nominating corruption-tainted leaders for the presidency and ‘Top Six’. In rural areas, so-called ‘traditional authorities’ collude with mining companies to rob communities of R-billions in taxes and royalties that could be spent on development.
…is a crisis of capitalism…
But it does not have to be like this. South Africa is a rich country. The wealth needed to solve poverty, unemployment, homelessness and the crises of service delivery, health and education exists. But it is locked away in the capitalist economy. The banks, the mines, the commercial farms, the factories, the big construction companies, the big supermarkets etc. are the private property of the bosses. As such the ‘big businesses’ that dominate the economy are ‘protected’ from the needs and demands of the masses. The wealth that workers create on the shop-floor sits in corporate bank accounts. The bosses’ profits wait to be paid-out to already rich CEOs and shareholders as bonuses and dividends.
In just a few months in 2022, two banks, FNB and Absa, paid out nearly R32 billion to their shareholders. The entire cost of the Social Relief of Distress grant (SRD) for an entire year, paid to millions of poor people, is R35 billion. Yet the bosses, CEOs and shareholders will be the first to hypocritically say that the SRD grant is “unaffordable”. Under capitalism the interests of big business and the rich are prioritised at the expense of the working class and poor majority. Capitalism is a system of vast inequality – a tiny number of “haves” and millions of “have-nots”. The majority are condemned to a life of poverty and unemployment.
Despite the heroic sacrifices of millions of parents an entire generation have been raised in families and households shattered by homelessness and unemployment, enduring hunger and poverty, exposed to violence, alcoholism and drug-addiction. But there is no way for the majority of youth to ever escape this as they grow into adults. Capitalism denies them a future through mass youth unemployment. Alienated, told they are not wanted by society, it should be no surprise that some resort to a life of crime and that there are always fresh recruits for gangs, mafias, syndicates and corrupt political networks. Capitalism is the real social foundation of crime.
It is also the foundation of corruption. Capitalism concentrates wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Huge monopolies dominate the economy. Those who aspire to enter the capitalist class, to “get rich quick”, turning their backs on their communities to find their own individual escape from poverty, find the road blocked. Again, it should come as no surprise that some, once they have decided to “do whatever it takes and damn everyone else”, turn to corruption – bribery, tender-fraud, insider-trading etc.
… and the capitalist political parties have no solutions.
All of the political parties represented in parliament defend the continuation of capitalism. If not directly funded by big business, they represent social forces that aspire to be absorbed into the capitalist system.
From the beginning of its rule, the ANC government, which has always been pro-capitalist, accelerated the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich which had begun under colonialism and apartheid. This was achieved through, amongst others, massive tax cuts for big business, savage social spending cuts and relaxing capital controls to allow R-billions to leave the country ‘legally’. In addition, R400 billion is smuggled out of the country every year in illicit capital flows. SA is now the most unequal society on the planet. More than half the population (30 million) live in poverty. Whilst the top 10% own 84% of all assets and income, the bottom 50% have ‘negative wealth’.
Licking their lips in anticipation of the ANC falling below 50% in 2024, the other capitalist parties are all lining-up to form a pro-capitalist coalition government with it. But capitalism is in its worst crisis worldwide since the 1930s. In response, capitalist governments across the world are escalating attacks on the working class and poor. A future pro-capitalist coalition government in South Africa will find itself compelled to do likewise. On the basis of capitalism it will be impossible for any of South Africa’s political parties to solve the problems faced by communities. They will all fail as the ANC has failed.
Millions of working class people instinctively understand this. That is why in the 2021 local government elections 27 million people did not even vote. The ANC’s vote finally dropped below 50% but the real results are even worse for the capitalist parties. When those who did not vote are considered, the real active electoral support of the ANC is only 18%, the DA 8.5% and the EFF 4%. Communities are turning away from the capitalist political parties in disgust. They are sick of screaming for change that never comes.
Communities are looking for an alternative…
Communities are fighting back. So-called ‘service delivery protests’ happen so often that South Africa has been named the “protest capital of the world”. Many communities have already organised themselves. Mushrooming independent civics, community forums, crisis groups, concerned residents committees, and ratepayers’ associations are trying to fill the vacuum left by the retreat of the state and the failures of the capitalist parties.
In the 2021 elections more than 120 of these stood their own candidates alongside 1,500 independents. Some have been elected. But these heroic efforts at organisation are isolated and protests uncoordinated. Capitalist politicians will try and take advantage of this disunity to drag communities back down the dead-end road of failed capitalist ‘solutions’, as former DA-leader Musi Maimane and his new Build One South Africa party are doing.
…that alternative is to build a new civic federation…
Working class and poor communities need to build a civic federation that unites community structures across the country. A country-wide civic movement could lead national campaigns for house building and job creation. It could coordinate service delivery protests turning them into a powerful national movement. Instead of isolated local protests that the government can easily ignore, hundreds of communities can protest on the same day and on the same issue. Where communities are struggling on a specific local issue the entire federation can be mobilised in support.
Where communities are already organised their structures should participate in the new federation. Where they are not they must be encouraged to. All affiliates of the federation must be democratic, accountable and base themselves on the mass participation of the community. To prevent racial, tribal and xenophobic divisions being sown, all community structures must unite residents irrespective of gender, race, tribe, religion and nationality.
The federation can be brought into existence by linking-up neighbouring community structures in local civic federations at first. These can in turn link-up at municipal, provincial and national level, leading toward a founding national conference. Every affiliate must see itself as an action committee for leading struggles that can make a real difference in the lives of communities. Their impact will be magnified through the unity of the federation and its coordination of struggles.
Community organisations must fight to extend mass democratic control over community life. The struggle of all-against-all in access to housing, the allocation of jobs, business opportunities etc. must be replaced with mass democratic decision making. Where structures exist that should play a role in democratic oversight in the community – for example councillors’ offices, ward-committees, School Governing Boards, Community Policing Forums etc. – community structures should struggle for influence and control.
This is especially important on issues of crime and policing. Crime is a class issue like any other. The methods of the class struggle must also be used to deal with it, in mass community mobilisations against, for example, gangs, organised crime and xenophobic mobs.
Communities expect the state and its police and courts to be the frontline in fighting crime. But the state is also the armed guardian of the capitalist system. The capitalist class that controls the state requires that the police and courts enforce anti-working class laws limiting strikes, picket-lines and protests. Therefore any additional powers and resources given to the police and courts to deal with crime will also be used against worker and community organisations. It is crucial that community organisations fight for democratic control of the police and police resources.
…with a socialist programme…
A countrywide civic federation would need to be organised around a socialist programme. The resources and wealth needed to end poverty and unemployment and develop communities are locked away in the capitalist economy. There are many well-intentioned community programmes that want to side-step this fact, for example small business and ‘township entrepreneur’ development programmes, charities, food-sovereignty schemes etc. Although these can play a role in helping small communities, they can at best build islands of survival in a sea of destitution. They cannot solve the problems of the tens of millions of people in working class and poor communities. They can only treat symptoms.
To tackle the causes of communities’ problems it is necessary to abolish production for private profit and to replace it with production for social need. Only in this way will it be possible to end the squandering of the country’s resources and labour power. For this to become possible, the working class will have to take control of the economy so that the use of the country’s resources can be planned democratically. You cannot control what you do not own. A socialist programme would therefore place on the table the nationalisation of key sectors of the economy.
But this will look nothing like the ‘nationalised’ state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that exist now – Eskom, Transnet, Prasa, and the Post Office etc. Even without the industrial-scale looting that has wrecked the SOEs, under capitalism the state-owned sector will always be subordinated to the interests of the wider capitalist economy. It is used to under-write the profits of the capitalist class by carrying-out essential economic functions that historically no individual capitalist, or group of capitalists, found it profitable to do. If this changes the capitalist class will demand privatisation. In the meantime they make-do with tenders. Also, as Eskom’s deal with miner BHP Billiton revealed, they enter into secret “commercially sensitive” agreements to hide the fact that they are charged lower electricity tariffs than working class residents.
Under capitalism each SOE is run as an isolated capitalist island that must make a profit. Like their privately-owned corporate counterparts the SOEs are run as dictatorships under unelected boards and CEOs composed of the capitalist class. For example, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter, was formerly CEO of packaging manufacturer Nampak. Mpho Makwana, the Eskom chairperson appointed in September 2022 is also the chair of steel-manufacturer ArcelorMittalSA – one of the country’s biggest electricity users – and a director of Nedbank. Capitalist nationalisation like this sacrifices all the possible advantages of public ownership.
Socialist nationalisation would be completely different. It would not be limited to the unattractive corners of the capitalist economy but extended to all key sectors. Linking-up nationalised sectors would lay the foundations for a democratically planned socialist economy run in the interests of the working class majority, capable of ending poverty and unemployment and pulling-up the roots of crime and corruption.
For example, the big construction companies, the big manufactures of bricks, tiles, wooden beams and planks, door and window frames, water and sewerage pipes, electrical cabling etc., alongside the big building wholesalers and retailers, like Cashbuild and Builders Warehouse, would be taken out of private ownership and placed under the democratic control of their workers and communities and the wider organised working class. A plan could then be drawn-up to rapidly build all the houses that society needs. Millions could be given work and training as part of such a plan. The nationalisation of the banks would allow for cheap and affordable bonds and home loans.
As a step towards this, community organisations can conduct household surveys to determine the needs of the community. This can then be developed into a Needs Budget specifying, for example, that the community needs 3,000 houses, 40 kilometres of roads tarred, expansion of the sewerage system, an additional clinic, ten additional classrooms etc. etc. The community organisation can then campaign for the municipality to adopt the Needs Budget. This must not be spent on tenders but on a programme of public works that includes massive job creation and training for local residents. Campaigns for Needs Budgets could, alongside marches, protests and shutdowns, stand candidates against the councillors of the capitalist parties who claim they are “unaffordable”.
… for working class unity.
Communities cannot fight for socialism alone however. It will be necessary for the socialist civic federation to link-up with organised workers in the trade unions. There is of course no wall separating workers from communities. In the 1980s the community-based locals of the Cosatu trade union federation united the trade unions with the civic and youth movements. This tradition needs to be rebuilt.
The Saftu trade union federation took a step in this direction in 2018 when it convened the Working Class Summit (WCS) to bring trade union, community and youth organisations together under one umbrella. We encourage community structures to support all genuine steps in the direction of greater working class unity and to affiliate to the WCS. On 24 August 2022 both Cosatu and Saftu embarked on a National Shutdown and appealed for community support. The trade union leaders promised that it would be the start of a campaign of rolling mass action. Community structures should campaign for the leaders of the trade unions to keep their promise. The issue of public sector workers’ pay and the crisis of service delivery in communities can be united into a powerful second phase of mass action.
To implement its socialist programme the working class needs to win political power. For this it needs a socialist mass workers party that can unite workers, communities and youth on the political plane. The Saftu trade union federation and Working Class Summit have both passed resolutions in favour of creating a workers party. Community organisations should add their voice in support of the campaign demanding the implementation of these resolutions. A countrywide socialist civic federation would have a key role to play in assembling the forces for a workers party.
Organise Communities for Struggle
- Organise communities for struggle! Build democratic, accountable mass community organisations in every community. Leaders to be elected, accountable, recallable. Mass community meetings to decide on all major issues. Build direct links with workplaces and trade unions. Organise electoral challenges to recall corrupt and ineffective councillors. Elected working class representatives at all levels of government and in the unions to be paid only a skilled workers’ wage.
- Nothing for communities, without communities! Draw-up Needs Budgets for every community and build mass campaigns demanding their adoption.
- Unite communities! Link-up community organisations in a country-wide civic federation. Unite and coordinate service delivery protests. Build up to a national community shutdown.
- Only socialism means freedom! Arm communities with a socialist programme – at its heart the demand for the nationalisation, under democratic working class control, of the biggest companies in all the key sectors of the economy: agriculture, mining, construction, transport, manufacturing, telecommunications, wholesale, retail and distribution. Integrate nationalised industry according to a democratic socialist plan of production to raise wages, protect and create jobs, develop communities and end poverty.
- Build the unity of the entire working class! Unite with the organised working class in the trade unions in a campaign of rolling mass action against the crisis of capitalism. Build strike preparation committees in every community uniting shop stewards and worker activists with community and youth activists. Affiliate community structures to the Working Class Summit.
- For a socialist mass workers party! Implement the Saftu and Working Class Summit declaration to establish a workers party. Reconvene the WCS to set the launch date! Build the party on a unifying, democratic and open basis allowing unions, community organisations, youth campaigns and the existing working class political groups and parties to affiliate.
Programme of Action
Campaign and fight for:
- A mass decent house-building, electricity, water, sanitation, road and public transport infrastructure programme. Campaign for (i) the socialist nationalisation of the big construction companies, building wholesalers and big building retailers, (ii) full community involvement in the design of houses and the planning of communities, including parks, youth clubs, sporting facilities, libraries, and other community infrastructure and resist forced evictions and relocations, (iii) the placing of housing waiting lists under the democratic control of community organisations, with allocation on the basis of fair and objective criteria, including current housing situation, number of dependents and length of time on waiting list, (iv) a massive investment in publicly-owned, affordable and integrated public transport, including a massive expansion of rail and bus infrastructure.
- End the electricity crisis! Fight electricity cut-offs! No to pre-paid electricity meters. Campaign for (i) the cancellation of all electricity arrears in working class communities, the replacement of unaffordable tariffs with a sliding-scale – the more you earn the more you pay, with adequate and free provision for unemployed and pensioners, (ii) the opening of all Eskom contracts with big business energy users and an increase in their tariffs in line with their profits. No to the privatisation of electricity! No unbundling of Eskom! Oppose capitalist so-called ‘Independent’ Power Producers! Oppose nuclear! Provide affordable electricity for all of South Africa through massive investment in publicly-owned renewable energy under the democratic control of workers and communities. Transition away from fossil-fuels without loss of jobs and a retraining training programme for all workers.
- No more ‘Day Zeroes’! Campaign for massive public investment in water and sewerage infrastructure.
- Clean-up our communities! Campaign for oversight of environmental planning to combat pollution, the dumping of toxic wastes, the health impact of industrial and mining activity and the effects of climate change on the threat of floods, droughts, deforestation and desertification.
- A publicly-funded, free, accessible and high quality national health service – reject National Health Insurance. Nationalise Mediclinic, Netcare, Life Healthcare, and the big pharmaceutical companies under the democratic control of health workers, patients and communities. Strengthen primary healthcare through building adequately equipped and supplied clinics open 24/7.
- Funding and resources to end violence against women and children. Campaign for (i) a free, accessible, secure and high-quality network of women’s shelters for survivors of domestic abuse and rape, with provision for children, giving women the freedom to leave abusive relationships, (ii) an increase in the child support grant, (iii) free, accessible, secure and high-quality pre-school child-care and elderly-care centres to relieve the domestic burden on women, (iv) free, accessible and high-quality sexual health and family planning services to allow women genuine choice over if, and when, to have children, (v) dismiss all police officers, magistrates and judges guilty of victim blaming in cases of gender-based violence and LGBT+ hate crimes, (vi) the scrapping the discriminatory anti-woman Traditional Courts Bill.
- Publicly-funded, free, accessible and high quality education from nursery to tertiary. Campaign for (i) a massive programme of investment in school and TVET infrastructure, (ii) the full implementation of the SA Schools Act: Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure – every school must have the basic services of running water, flushing toilets, ablution facilities and electricity; every classroom must have desks and chairs, white or blackboards, fully equipped libraries and laboratories, free wi-fi and sports facilities. (iii) insourcing of school feeding schemes, (iv) a reduction of the teacher-pupil ratio from 40 to 30 through a massive increase in teacher training, (v) the re-establishment of parent-teacher-learner committees to place schools under democratic community control, (vi) the cancellation of all student debt, an end to financial and academic exclusions, the abolition of NSFAS and its replacement with cost of living grants for all college and university students.
CRIME & CORRUPTION
- Struggle for socialism! End the class foundations of criminality in massive inequality and poverty.
- Make communities safe! Organise against crime, drugs and gangsterism.
- Organise community watch programmes in every community, including patrols of crime ‘hot spots’. Mass community mobilisations against gangsterism and organised crime.
- Report all drug dealers and other criminals to the police and campaign for their removal from the community. Campaign for free, accessible and high-quality community drug rehabilitation programmes linked to guaranteed jobs for recovering addicts.
- Campaign against gender-based violence, LGBT+ and xenophobic hate crimes. Community organisations to take-up the defence of women, LGBT+ people and foreign residents with their full involvement.
- For community-controlled policing! Struggle for working class oversight and control of policing through organised community and trade union participation in Community Policing Forums (CPFs), including representatives of community organisations and worker-representatives of police unions and private security unions.
- Campaign for an expanded role for democratic and community-controlled CPFs, including the power to recruit additional police officers to focus exclusively on community-level crime and crime-prevention, under the exclusive democratic control of the CPF.
- Campaign for the election of station commanders, district and provincial commissioners and magistrates and judges.
- Campaign for community control of hiring and firing in SAPS to combat corruption and the waste of police resources. Dismiss all perpetrators of bribery, harassment, rape and torture.
- Campaign for full trade union rights for all police officers and civilian personnel. Scrap the “essential service” provisions in the Labour Relations Act – workers and communities will democratically decide the level and organisation of emergency cover during strikes.
- Campaign against politicised policing! Demand the abolition of the State Security Agency (SSA) and the militarised tactical and public order policing units used to suppress working class protests.
- Campaign for a massive extension of jury duty, including in magistrates courts, and especially in cases dealing with “crimes of poverty”.
- Struggle against corruption! Recover the stolen R-billions! Organise a worker, community and trade union-led commission to investigate the findings of the Zondo Commission and direct which cases and individuals to prosecute.
- Campaign against tenders, outsourcing and privatisation in public works. Insource all outsourced and privatised municipal and provincial services.
- Community organisations to scrutinise the work of local councillors and local councils. Delegates from community structures to observe all council meetings and report back; organise lobbies and protests outside meetings raising the community’s demands.
- Campaign to end state salaries for traditional leaders and to abolish the traditional authorities. Put all taxes and royalties currently paid to traditional leaders by mining companies under the democratic control of elected and accountable community structures to spend on social development.
CREATE JOBS, SHARE OUT THE WORK FAIRLY
Campaign and fight for:
- A fully-enforced R12,500 p/m living wage for all full-time workers! Campaign for (i) a rigorous regime of workplace inspections under the democratic control of workers’ representatives, (ii) the nationalisation of non-complying big business, (iii) subsidies and tax relief to small and family businesses on the basis of proven unaffordability, adequate for the minimum wage to be paid (iv) the voluntary adoption by local businesses of community-wide minimum wages, as a step toward R12,500 p/m.
- Jobs for all! Campaign for (i) a mass job creation programme so that everyone who wants a job can have one, (ii) a mass apprenticeship programme with guaranteed jobs at the end to tackle youth unemployment, (iii) the provision in municipal budgets for education and training programmes and apprenticeships for youth to be trained as electricians, plumbers, IT technicians etc.
- End slave labour! Organise all EPWP, CWP, CHW, ECD etc. workers into the trade unions and campaign for permanent jobs.
- No one shall go to bed hungry! Campaign and fight for a Basic Income Grant of R3,500 p/m rising with inflation.
- Unemployed must not mean unorganised! Organise community labour desks to:
- Campaign for the trade unions to adopt a policy of “once a member, always a member”. Retrenched workers to retain union membership and full democratic rights in union structures. Organise the chronically unemployed under the leadership of the trade union movement – build unemployed-workers and unemployed-youth locals in communities.
- Draw-up registers of the unemployed and their skills to match job vacancies with workers and campaign for local businesses to employ from the registers. Registers to be regularly inspected by representatives of the community to protect against corruption.
- Organise rotas for casual workers to ensure all have a fair chance to earn a regular wage.
- Stop greedy bosses abusing foreign workers and undercutting wages! Campaign for trade unions to organise foreign workers.
Campaign and fight for:
- Fight harassment of street traders! License all street traders without discrimination. Campaign for the development of adequate market space, stands and other infrastructure necessary for street traders to engage in business. Encourage unity amongst traders against exploitation and discrimination by banks and shopping malls.
- Fight big business price gouging! Campaign for state supported cooperatives of small farmers and small businesses; a public wholesale goods network to provide cheap bulk supplies; provision of affordable credit to existing small businesses and those wishing to open a small business; price controls and guaranteed markets.
17 October 2022