Special Cosatu 11th Congress Bulletin of the Revolutionary Marxist Group (RMG


COSATU is gathering at its 11th National Congress at a critical moment for the working class in South Africa and indeed world-wide. The recent massacre of striking mineworkers at Marikana and Cosatu’s closing of ranks around the issue - choosing to support the NUM leadership against the workers - points to a serious political and organisational crisis within our ranks. This congress must decide once and for all – Whose side are we on? – the ruling capitalist class (white monopoly-capitalists bosses, the oppressive and corrupt ANC government and their lackeys within the trade union movement) OR the working class (workers – full-time, part-time, casuals, the unemployed, poor black communities – rural and urban). The ongoing strike by the Lonmin mineworkers and thousands of others is about the STRUGGLE FOR A LIVING WAGE and survival. COSATU must support the striking miners! Comrades, WE ARE ALL MARIKANAS!

September 2012
The ANC government has declared war on the strikers, slaughtering over 34 miners in cold blood, declaring a de facto state of emergency in working class townships around Rustenburg and wherever strikes are breaking out. It is now attempting again to use the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state to smash the strike and inflict a defeat on this vanguard of the South African working class. Last year it was Andries Tatane killed in Ficksburg, previously it was Samwu shop-steward, Petros Msiza - who will be killed next when we strike for a living wage? We must not allow them to succeed in this aim and live up to our slogan: AN INJURY TO ONE, IS AN INJURY TO ALL! Whatever else the Congress decides, COSATU must commit the collective might of its two million members immediately to rally in support of the striking workers of Lonmin and the strikers at the other mines in the ‘platinum belt’ and the suffering working class communities they are part of. We call on the assembled worker leaders of COSATU to clearly take the side of the workers against the hated mining bosses and the state whose essential function is to protect their profits. Cosatu, the Striking mineworkers & the Struggle against Poverty Wages The strike is for a LIVING WAGE and a revolt against all the barbaric conditions (poverty, unemployment, wretched housing, illhealth, pitiful services, etc.) that they and their families are forced to endure. Just like in the 1987 strike against similar conditions, they have been ready to risk their lives for this cause. Their militancy, determination and heroism show the depths of their pent-up frustration and class rage. The striking mineworkers are leading the way for us. They are currently the vanguard of the working class – not the cowardly union leaders like those of the NUM who betray their own members by siding with the bosses and support the breaking of the strike by the police and repressive measures of the ANC government. The slaughter, the hounding, the arrests, the torture and laying of murder charges and the imposition of a de facto state of emergency in Marikana and other working class areas surrounding Rustenburg. The full might of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state has failed to bow let alone break the spirit of these mineworkers. They continue with their heroic strike struggle without pay. The spread of strike action to other mines tells the same story of workers that are willing to fight for a living wage even if it means taking on their bosses and the state – sacrificing their jobs and lives. Millions more workers, both employed and underemployed, township and village residents, unemployed youth and working class students across the country are deeply unhappy by the conditions they endure and more ready to struggle through protests and struggles. It is a working class ready to be organised and mobilised into an unstoppable revolutionary force against the capitalist ruling class and the capitalist state that defends its interests; if only it had the leadership, organisational muscle and political programme to take its struggle forward. This reality and these tasks should be uppermost in the minds of COSATU of all serious and militant delegates as they gather at this ‘crossroads’ Congress.

The COSATU Congress and the tasks of revolutionary workers

The Crisis of capitalism and Revival of Socialism Once more, the world system of capitalism reels under the weight of it internal class contractions. In the past few years, explosive mass struggles have broken out across the globe, not least of all in North Africa and the Middle East. This has been accompanied by bloody imperialist interventions (Libya, Syria) and more intense inter-imperialist rivalry, threatening further bitter civil strife and wars. Even in the heartland of imperialist Europe, open class warfare is the order of the day, as the bosses try to force the working class to bear the brunt of the crisis of their system. ALREADY THE INCOME AND LIVING STANDARDS OF GREECE’S WORKING CLASS HAVE BEEN REDUCED BY 50%. For COSATU workers and the working class worldwide, these unmistakeable trends raise afresh the question of a socialist alternative to the rotten capitalist system. South Africa has not been immune to these trends. Today our country is once more wracked by these morbid symptoms of crisis: in the economy, in government, in the ANC, in the Alliance; and of course in the daily conditions of life of the working class. Marikana is the embodiment of this profound and systemic social crisis. It announces that that the rulers can no longer rule in the old way; and that the ruled no longer wish to be ruled in this way. The ANC’s Negotiated Betrayal of the Working Class The Marikana massacre and the strike struggles of the miners powerfully echo the hey-days of the revolutionary crisis of the 1980s. That struggle threatened the very foundations of the hated system of apartheid-capitalism but was betrayed by the ANC, disguised as the liberator of the masses. In the name of democracy, the militant and heroic forces of the workers and youth of South Africa were forced to give up on ideas of revolution and socialism and the mass organs of struggle were demobilised and disbanded. The ANC, with full complicity of the SACP and COSATU leaderships, played a crucial part in a rotten negotiated settlement. Its main purpose was to sign a deal with the monopoly capitalist ruling class: black majority rule, in exchange for guaranteeing capitalist property relations and taming its radical black working class base. As part of its bargain,

the ANC steadied the nerves and eased the fears of white monopoly capitalist ruling class by entrenching their property rights in the Constitution, abandoning the nationalisation clause of the Freedom Charter; and - once in power - putting neoliberal policies in place to maximise profitability. This was the original “1994 Class Project” that continues today, irrespective of whether it is Mandela, Mbeki, Zuma or Mothlanthe as president. After eighteen years of ANC rule, we are faced with what the Political Report to the COSATU Congress called a ‘multiple crisis’: in the ruling party, in the state and within the working class. Marikana is a new and highly significant dimension to this crisis. Today, in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre, the unfinished ‘business’ of the 1980s stares us all square in the face. COSATU leaders have failed the class test of Marikana The Marikana strike is not just a wage dispute; it is a revolt by the impoverished black working class against White monopoly capital and a black capitalist ANC regime. Every worker leader should feel a sense of outrage about Marikana. Not least of all because of the response of the COSATU leadership; their sins of both omission and commission. All strikes inspire confidence in workers, in their ability to rely on their own collective organisation to challenge the power of the capitalist bosses and its state. This is how and why strikes develop class consciousness. This is why there is such hostility to strike breakers. When workers are pitting their power against the bosses, the scabs and strikebreakers collaborate with the bosses to undermine that power and class consciousness of workers. The Marikana massacre is an outcome of this clash of antagonistic class forces. The mining bosses wanted the strike to be ended and the state agreed; and the NUM leaders that chose the side of the class enemy. In the actions of the NUM leaders, the strike and the strikers’ demands were rendered irrelevant and the situation was reduced to a criminal or police matter. These ‘leaders’ colluded with the ruling class and even fingered particular worker leaders. COSATU should have grasped this simple class truth and decided to support the miners from the start.

The COSATU leadership failed to condemn the massacre and lay the blame on a capitalist state (presided over by an ANC government) that acted in cahoots with the mining bosses and on behalf of their interests. It did this while rejecting efforts by those who “seek to delegitimise the liberation movement” There is convincing evidence that the massacre was a planned operation by a highly trained elite police unit whose aim was to smash the strike and whose brief was maximum use of force using semi-automatic weapons - including carolling the strikers using razor wire and advancing nyalas while shooting fleeing miners in the back. Most of the killed miners were shot in the back while fleeing or driven over and crushed by armoured vehicles. The COSATU statements have, in turn, unequivocally supported the official state commission of enquiry without any reservation. Unlike the NUMSA statement, it has not indicated any interest in an independent working class enquiry. The truth about what happened in this case will have a class basis to it. Does the COSATU leadership really believe that the Marikana strikers will receive justice from the official enquiry? Does it not recognise that a monstrous cover-up of the role of the senior echelons of the state is underway? The COSATU leaders have also failed to acknowledge the crisis in NUM, the rotten role of NUM leaders in response to Marikana massacre and the total loss of faith in its leadership on the part of workers. This is why the living wage strike has taken the form of a revolt against NUM and has spread to other mines; not because there is a conspiracy by rival unions such as AMCU or NATAWU. A principled response by union leadership would have included the following: • outright and unequivocal condemnation of the police slaughter of the striking mine-workers • rejection of the official state commission of enquiry and support for an independent working class enquiry into the massacre and the events that led to it • clear support for the right of the striking workers both to be on strike and to decide on which union they wish to belong to • political and practical support for the strike action and the living wage demand of the Lonmin workers and the other workers that have since

joined them. Now the state has come back with a renewed attack on the strikers; and this must be met with a clear response from the COSATU Congress. This must include a programme of action with the following demands: • Hands off the striking workers! An injury to One, is an injury to All! • Police out of the townships! Phantsi the State of Emergency! • Victory to the strikers and their living wage demand of R12 500! In the light of the combined hostile action of the bosses and the state, the striking miners must not be isolated and their strike efforts must not lose momentum. It is, therefore, crucially important for COSATU to support the spreading of strike action to the rest of mining sector. In addition, COSATU must call for and prepare a general strike in support of the miners and their demands. These matters should be urgently raised at the COSATU Congress. They involve the fundamental principal of class unity against the actions of the bosses and the state, so well captured in the age-old slogan of the international workers’ movement: An Injury to One is an Injury to All! The NUMSA statement says the union supports both the official state enquiry and the idea of an independent one. It does not explain how both can be seriously proposed. However, we call on NUMSA both to propose practical steps and terms of reference for a workercontrolled independent enquiry; as well as call on the COSATU Congress to support such an initiative. Strikes and Violence – A working class position is required In the heat of a strike struggle we believe that workers have a right to defend themselves against the actions of the class enemy and strike-breakers. We refuse to bow to bourgeois ‘public opinion’ or ‘morality’ and its notion of ‘law and order’. We are class fighters not bourgeois democrats. Our sense of right and wrong is derived from the dictates of the class struggle not what is legally sanctioned by the bourgeois state and the instruments that enforce it ‘law and order’. Our supreme concern is the widening and deepening of revolutionary class conscious within the working class. That is why its strike struggles are so important and why the miners’ strikes are the most important focal point of the

class struggle in South Africa today. As the class struggle has grown more intense, so too has the determination of strikers and the levels of state repression against striking workers. It is for this reason, according to the Congress’ Secretariat Report, that, “half of the COSATU members surveyed in the 2012 COSATU Workers’ Survey see violence by workers as necessary to achieve an acceptable result.” Lenin, in his important pamphlet, On Strikes, written in 1899, says: “Every strike means many privations for the working people, terrible privations that can be compared only to the calamities of war—hungry families, loss of wages, often arrests, banishment from the towns where they have their homes and their employment. Despite all these sufferings, the workers despise those who desert their fellow workers and make deals with the employers.” How poignant and relevant are these words for the situation in Marikana! Comrades, worker leaders of COSATU, Marikana is a wake-up call to be heeded! We cannot desert our fellow workers and sign peace accords with the mining bosses and the state. We must use all our might as a federation to close ranks and defend and support them.

Forward to a General Strike in solidarity with the mineworkers and against the ANC government’s state of Emergency!
COSATU and Revolutionary Class Politics The Alliance is premised on the theory and strategy of National Democratic Revolution. This theory and strategy binds COSATU in practice to class-collaborationism and reformism that promotes the false belief that the working class and its enemies – the capitalists and the bourgeois state have common interests. This class collaboration has taken many guises: reconciliation, nationbuilding, ‘Proudly South Africa”, social partnership, the Tripartite Alliance, etc. We cannot seriously fight for a living wage, for decent work, for decent housing, for quality education and health care or quality services, for socialism on the basis of class collaboration. The revolutionary enthusiasm of the striking miners challenges this class collaboration and NDR and all

that Cosatu has done over the past two decades as politically lifeless, routine and bureaucratic and not fundamentally in the interests of workers. Where is the socialist COSATU that combined with militant township residents and revolutionary youth and students to take on the might of the Botha regime and the apartheid-capitalist system? The striking miners, their families and all the members of the communities they come from know that a return to ‘normal’, to ‘peace’ is a return to the same misery and suffering that the strike, with its demand for a living wage, seeks to call an end to. Public sector unions have been in the forefront of these kinds of struggles worldwide. The workers demand a living wage because the life they lead is more like dying than living. They demand a decent life, so even the ANC’s idle promise of a ‘better life’ is not good enough. They know that their lives are worth nothing in the eyes of the mining bosses and the ANC political bosses. They create the wealth but only the bosses profit from it. They know that the privileges of the bosses and their agents are as a result of their blood, sweat and tears! They are on strike for a living wage because the union bosses of NUM have failed them miserably. Their struggle is living proof that the working class can only be confused, lied to, stifled, demobilised, demotivated, fobbed off, fed on crumbs, frustrated, for so long and no more. While the class rulers rule, make their profits under ‘normal’ conditions, secured by the capitalist state; as Marx puts it, ‘the mole of history’ has been burrowing away! The ANC government are the neoliberal capitalist bosses in the public sector. It is no accident that the public sector unions (NEHAWU, SADTU, Samwu, etc.) have been in the forefront of a series of bitter strikes over wages and working conditions and struggles resisting privatization, retrenchments, austerity measures and other neoliberal policies. Public sector unions have been in the forefront of these kinds of struggle worldwide and especially since the onset of the global capitalist crisis. The ANC political bosses of SALGA’s opening offer in the recent round of wage negotiations was a below-inflation 4%. COSATU needs a leadership that puts the struggle for socialism seriously on the agenda. These days, talk of socialism has become increasingly rare. In the

COSATU’s New Growth Plan for Full Employment, socialism gets a mention only once and that as an historical reference! With capitalism in a state of deep crisis globally, the federation should be fighting to overthrow the system that is based on the exploitation of the working class and is the source of all its misery. It should not be collaborating with the capitalist bosses and the capitalist state and its ruling party to figure out how to rescue this rotten and barbaric system. The Political Report to the Congress wants us to believe that, despite all the setbacks, zig-zags, up-and-downs, pluses and minuses, the NDR can indeed realize its aim of ‘transformation of the state’ in favour of the working class. For this the ANC and the ANC government must be reclaimed by progressive forces within the Alliance. They wish us to believe that the ‘Class Project of 1996” or the agents of the “predator state” can all be removed and replaced with representatives of ‘left’, ‘progressive’ or ‘radical’ forces, armed with “left’, ‘progressive’ and ‘radical’ policies; and, taken together, this will result in a transformed state and a restructured capitalism that will put an end to poverty, sharply reduce inequality even guarantee full employment! Lenin had a quite different view of the nature and function of the capitalism system and the capitalist state. He argued that within a capitalist environment, the state exists to guarantee the interests of the capitalist ruling class; it is an instrument of bourgeois rule, no more and no less. Indeed, drawing on Marx and Engels, he argued that “a democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism”. He pointed out that, “the omnipotence of ‘wealth’ is more certain in a democratic republic… (because) it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism…it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeoisdemocratic republic can shake it.” Here the Political Report flies in the face of Leninism and Marxism. The COSATU leadership points to all the “defects” of the ANC government and seeks a change of “persons” and “institutions” and reformist policies to realize the goals of the “second transition”. This perspective is a product of the hopes, dreams and illusions of a petty-bourgeois leadership that lives in awe and fear of the monopoly capitalist

class and chooses the dead-end of reform instead of the hard road of revolution and socialism. Just like the terrible fate of the Aurora mineworkers has illustrated the dead-end of NDR, the Lonmin and other mineworkers’ strikes now are illustrating more forcefully the true capitalist nature of the ANC and its partner in government, the SACP. The Marikana strikers have shown the real path to be taken by the working class; the path of open militant class struggle. If the leaders of COSATU were half as bold and determined as those of the Lonmin and other mineworkers, the working class would be able to overturn South Africa in no time! To go forward we must be clear about our strategic aim and the kind of programme of struggle needed to realise it. If one fights for transformation of the state and reform of the capitalist economy then the working class and its organised formations such as COSATU are inevitably forced into collaborating with the capitalist state and the capitalist class rather than fighting against them. The Political Report argues that we must agree to establish conditions of stability and the right policies so that the capitalist economy can be made to work for us. The logic of this position undermines the notion of open mass class struggles through which the working class gains greater confidence, political clarity, more powerful organisation and class consciousness to a point where it can launch a challenge for power. A period of capitalist crisis is therefore not an opportunity to ensure that wider sections of the working class reject capitalism and struggle for socialism but a period of containing class struggle, of reassuring the capitalist class and avoiding capital flight. This too is a lesson of Marikana. The striking workers stared the capitalist state and the mining bosses straight in the eye and said, “To hell with you and the logic of your system, we are fighting for our lives as an oppressed and exploited class!” The NUM leadership calls on workers to end their strike, signs a ‘peace accord’ with the bosses and the state’, all for the sake of restarting operations and reassuring investors. Their class collaborationist logic says, “Do not bite the hand that feeds you.” This is the political significance of Marikana and this is what COSATU workers must take a stand on.

The workers know the enemy in this case are the ANC bosses, in all spheres of government, who while inflicting increased misery on workers, rely on government office to feather their own nests by corrupt means. Just like workers in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Nigeria and Botswana are experiencing - under conditions of capitalist crisis, the attacks on workers have intensified and worse is to come. The mighty 2010 public sector strike said it all. For the first time, there was mass disgruntlement of rank-and-file workers against their union leaders and open cries of ‘sell-out’ over the deal that the union leaders negotiated and settled on. The Political Report is aware of these trends but insists that the struggle to transform the state must continue unabated. Workers and working class communities have no reason to place their faith in the capitalist state or in the capitalist ANC government. COSATU must strike out on an independent path of militant class struggle in defence of the immediate and class interests of all section of the working class: the employed, the underemployed and the unemployed. This is the method and approach of Marx and Lenin. The present approach of the COSATU leadership runs directly counter to this. If our strategic aim is socialism then the task is to ensure that the working class through a consistent struggle is prepared ideologically, politically and organisationally to take power and establish itself as a new ruling class. Break the class-collaborationist Alliance! Break from the class collaborationist perspective of the NDR! Launch a debate and a struggle for a mass workers’ party, based on the trade unions that can genuinely champion the immediate and historic interests of the working class. Qina Msebenzi, Qina!

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