South African Students Congress

Our class enemies should not be allowed to triumph: our unity is our strength

11 November 2014

"Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains." Communist Manifesto.

SASCO has noted the decision of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) decision to expel its largest affiliate the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) from the federation. It is with great pain that we as revolutionary students have to respond to these developments. Our view has always been to call for the unity of the federation and we have deliberately desisted from making public commentary about internal COSATU processes. These we did recognizing that COSATU and its affiliates have the capacity, at least we believed, to resolve the internal challenges confronting it amicably. We also respected and continue to respect the independence of COSATU.

The recent developments make it difficult for us as revolutionary students, the sons and daughters of the working class, to keep silent and hope for the improbable. It is clear to us that COSATU is in an untenable crisis. The expulsion of more than 350 000 metal workers from the only reliable organization of working people is not only tragic, but also catastrophic to say the least. As conscious students, we have been taught by amongst others COSATU, that there is no compromise for the unity of the workers and their class. We have always been taught that the disunity of workers only works in the interest of the capitalist class. We are therefore left disgruntled unable to reconcile on whose class interest are the current developments in COSATU? Who stands to benefit form a divided working class?

SASCO believes that COSATU is the only reliable spear and shield of workers of our country. This federation has been built through the sweat and blood of workers of our country. We cannot but remember the workers that took to the streets of Durban in 1973. We cannot forget the clarion call of 1985, WORKERS UNITE, ONE COUNTRY - ONE FEDERATION. Workers of this land defeated racial division, they defeated tribalism and other forms of disunity. The inception of COSATU was a major breakthrough for South African workers. It organized the broadest section of working people and united African, Coloured and Indian workers in the main.

Unity of COSATU does not rest in the elevation of individual leaders of the federation to some form of a personality contest, as the media has sought to project it. We are of the firm view that the unity of COSATU rests in the resolve to put workers first and in the struggle to defeat our class enemy. No matter the merits and demerits, the use of technocratic processes to deal with political problems will never achieve our desire for the unity of workers.

It is evidently clear that the rank and file of the membership of COSATU want a united federation that will advance their daily struggles for better working conditions, increase in wage and their social emancipation. Workers expect their leaders always to have their interest at heart when executing their delegated responsibility to serve and lead workers.

We have noted the accusations and counter accusation; we call on workers to refuse the reduction of their organization to personalities and their battles informed by political myopia. The matter that should concern workers is their disunity, the weakening of their fighting capacity, their vulnerability, the mileage to be gained by our class enemy, the reversal of the gains of workers and the weakening of the voice of workers in the program of fundamental social transformation.

We believe that the current discourse that is centered on individuals, which is perpetuated by the media is a smoke screen for the real impact this crisis will have on workers struggles. SASCO believes that COSATU has remained a leading voice against neoliberalism in our country; it has always sought to raise valuable inputs about the direction our movement and society should take. Our worst nightmare would be to lose this critical voice in society. We believe that capital, which has been waging an onslaught on the working class, has been advancing a regressive agenda during this period of crisis in COSATU.

SASCO calls on the unity of the left within the movement, in order to truly ensure a radical socioeconomic program beyond the casual pronouncement of the movement and its leaders. The current state of the left has allowed our detractors, even those within the movement, to consolidate against our interests. It is only within the context of a united left axis within the movement that we can truly defeat neoliberalism and its tenants. The option of walking out of the alliance will only further divide the working class in our country, so is the expulsion of a critical section of organized workers from their federation. This will lead to regress and reversal of the many gains that the working class has made since the advent of a democratic dispensation.

In the process of advancing our national liberation struggle, there will be moments of divergence and convergence. Our movement is a multi class one, and therefore a contested one, a divided left tilts power in favour of the right. We warn leaders of the federation and affiliates not to use workers organizations to advance their individual interests.

We believe there are possibly two types of tendencies that pose a threat to COSATU; those that seek upward mobility within the movement and those that seek to establish their own political enterprises outside the movement. Both these tendencies have common intensions, to deepen the crisis in the federation, advance private projects of individuals, and ultimately destroy workers unity. We reject arguments that suggest either tendency is in the true interest of workers. It is only capital that will derive dividends from a weak and segregated working class.

Since the crisis of COSATU factional spectacle emerged the federation and its affiliates have encountered significant setbacks:

All these and others events are as a result of the palace politics that have characterized the body politics of the federation and its affiliates. All this time while leaders play political football, the interests of workers take a back seat. Workers monies are used willy-nilly in court cases. Strangely, COSATU is found more in courts than on the ground championing worker demands and social transformation.

Both the call and the refusal of a Special Congress are problematic as far as we are concerned. This is because the call for a Special Congress, even though constitutional, seems to be in the main a regime change endeavor. It is called within the context of the current factional environment, and will deepen the crisis at hand. This could also lead to a Congress that takes decisions out of anger than rational and dialectical thinking. The call for the breaking of the alliance, like the decision not to support the ANC is an act of biting your nose to spite your face. Its self-defeating, the working class masses of our country want a united movement that will drive radical socioeconomic transformation. For decades our people have built these organizations to serve the people and not individual leaders.

On the other hand the refusal of the Special Congress can only but deepen the crisis and sharpen the contradictions. The maneuvering and out-maneuverings within the CEC, flexing of political muscles is not going to solve COSATU's problems. This can lead to the formation of splinter federations and parties.

SASCO believes that what is necessary is for COSATU to purge itself of workerist tendencies and the emergence of upward mobility of its leadership. The moment for COSATU to revisit and reposition itself is now. This cannot be done within the framework of the factional and palace political setup. The mobilization of workers within this framework will only divide their collective unity.

What makes this situation sad is the complete absence of the vanguard party in the process of resolving this impeding crisis. We believe that the SACP should have played a more direct role in this struggle and properly guided the process towards viable crisis resolution. We have always been told, by the SACP, that a united COSATU is very important for the advancement of the struggle for the destruction of capital and the construction of socialism from its ruins. Instead of vanguarding the workers, we notice an amount of labeling and counter-labeling by the party and certain union leaders involved in the debacle. It is very sad that instead of resolving this challenge the party entered an adventurist path characterized by a lot of quick-fix mentality and political indifferentism, forgetting the long-term objective of building socialism.

South African students call for unity at all costs, we call for ordinary workers not to allow COSATU to become a franchise of leaders and their factional enterprises. Workers of South Africa must unite behind the slogan of One Country, One Federation.

Issued by the NEC of SASCO
Ntuthuko Makhombothi (President): 0718752209
Luzuko Buku (Secretary General): 0718793258