Wednesday, April 21, 2010

South Africa: Drawing the lessons from the Samwu strike so far; a fighting plan to win

We reprint a WIVL article on the the lessons of the SAMWU [South African Municiple Workers Union] strike that began on April 12. While we are no longer in the same political organisation as the WIVL we are in agreement with the political positions its advocates to win this strike.
The first lesson to be drawn is that both the ANC [African National Congress] and SACP [South African Communist Party] are responsible for cracking down on the Samwu strikers. The Minister of local government (Co-operative governance) , Sicelo Shiceka, is a leader of the SACP. Secondly, the SACP has remained quiet throughout the first 7 days of the strike (the youth wing issued a belated statement on the 7th day of the strike, hardly what we may call a vanguard role). 
Why is the silence significant? From the beginning the government (let's face it, Salga [South African Local Government Association] has no real independent existence from the government), called the strike illegal and threatened over national television, to dismiss any worker who went on strike. The government tried to interdict the strike but even this failed. Now the government tries to intimidate strikers by threatening that they must pay for so-called damages of the strike (R6.4 million). These anti-worker attacks by the SACP and ANC on the municipal strikers, are of the type last seen in the dying days of the apartheid regime.
In another strike (on the railways), SACP leader Lucky Montana told workers over public television, without even a hearing, that they were dismissed. Later he was made to eat his words when workers forced him to retract the apartheid-style dismissals and they embarked on a face-saving exercise by firing the regional Manager.
What is at the heart of the alliance of the SACP and the ANC against the workers? It is the stalinist notion of a 2-stage revolution, namely that for the so-called national democratic revolution, that the leadership of the struggle for bourgeois democratic demands are placed in the hands of the middle class and the capitalist class, in this case, the multiclass ANC. Trotsky and Lenin, in defining the permanent revolution, described how, in the colonial world, in the period of imperialist decay (the world world being divided up among the monopolies) the struggle for the basic democratic demands can only be achieved by the working class taking power. Lenin went so far as to say (State & Revolution) that upon attaining a democratic republic, the middle class and the capitalist class lose all their revolutionism. The anti-worker actions of the ANC and SACP in their attempts to crush the strike, prove Lenin correct.
Blade Nzimande got his R1 million BMW within days; JP Morgan Chase, the Bank of New york, the Wall Street gangsters, all got their billions from the 2010 stadiums and infrastructure within months; JP Morgan Chase is actually in charge of loans for Eskom and is daily plundering the working class.
On the other hand, the municipal strikers are waiting 7 years for their backpay; millions of the working class have waited many years for housing and adequate services. Millions will always be unemployed and without adequate housing. The people of Matafeni are still waiting for their 2 schools (demolished to make way for the Mbombela stadium).
In other words, imperialism is making super-profits at the expense of the working class, and the main agent of ensuring these profits, are the SACP and ANC. Workers need to ask themselves, if the govement cannot even meet a simple demand like 7 years of backpay (which must have been budgeted for), what purpose does the alliance with the ANC and SACP serve? It cannot even meet a single democratic demand! The govenment has for years been taking loans from the IMF and conditions of the IMF are budget cuts. So here we see directly, the govenment refuses to pay the municipal workers their due, but makes sure that the first expense is the massive interest payments to imperialism. Imperialism is the real leader of the ANC-SACP-Cosatu alliance, that is clear!
The strike of the municipal workers is thus not against Salga (this is only the superficial form), but against imperialism and their structural adjustment programme applied by the SACP and ANC in government.

But the SACP plays a more sinister role than the ANC, from within Cosatu, and in this case, also from within Samwu. High food, transport and electricity prices are artificially high, but the SACP 'vanguard' in Cosatu sit on their fingers. After the massive electricity increase, the World bank orders that 20% of Eskom workers be fired and Numsa leaders are only upset that they were not consulted (no plan to fight the retrenchments). But the Samwu leaders have made a critical error by applying the stalinist policy of a stayaway after day 3 of the strike. This shows the massive influence of the SACP within the union. The stayaway policy is a recipe for defeat:
1. Firstly, workers are atomised and isolated and there is no mechanism for the mass of strikers to control the direction of the strike;
2. it opens workers to victimization as they are now isolated individuals, instead of a united mass;
3. a stayaway deliberately demobilises the strikers instead of posing a united workers stance against the bosses.
4. a stayaway opens the door for scab labour to be used by the bosses;
5. a strike is a contest for power and the bosses, if faced by the united mass of workers at every depot and municipal workplace, would be confronted by working class power; on the other hand, with a stayaway, the absence of the workers gives strength to the bosses; the bosses have huge reserves, they can wait it out. A stayaway (a self-imposed lockout), a pacifict tactic, always tips the balance of forces in the bosses favour;
6. the united working class, occupying the workplace, immediately poses the question as to who the real boss is, the worker or the capitalist (and their local managers, the SACP and ANC). Taken to its end, a general strike, with workers occupying the workplace (as opposed to a general stayaway), immediately places on the agenda the formation of strike committees at every workplace and indeed self-defence committees to defend against the red ants and other fascist tools of the state. If all sectors came out in general strike, in support of the municipal workers, as they should (just give 7 days notice), the formation of factory committees and self -defence committees at every workplace, is immediately placed on the agenda. The next step would be to set up councils of delegates from all workplaces, from communities (1 per 100 workers or unemplyed), and from the soldiers. This bourgeois system, with the rule of the gangsters of Wall street, is immediately placed under challenge by the united working class.
The stayaway is a stalinist extension of the 2 stage theory as it takes power out of the hands of the working class, and places it in the hands of the middle class and capitalist class. The stayaway gives gaps to the state to crack down on individual workers and activists. Let us draw the lesson of Greece, when on the 11th March, during the biggest action of the masses in the recent history of their country, the Greek Communist party, supported by the fake left, called a stayaway and the 70 000 who came from different parts of Greece to Athens, were in isolated groups and were openly attacked and teargassed by the state as well being attacked by fascist gangs. The Greek Communist party refused to topple the government which was implementing massive wage cuts and attacks on the masses. The very government, who allowed JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs to take over the income from the docks and all export and imports of the country (the income went straight to Wall street and not even to the government, and this at massive interest rates)- the very ones who allowed the imperialists to bankrupt Greece, were protected by the stayaway and the general policy of the Greek Communist party. Soon after, such was the confidence of the imperialists in the stalinists to control the masses, they implemented further cuts in benefits and wages over the Greek masses.
We need to draw the lesson of the Chinese workers at Linzhou and Tonghua, who occupied their workplace, and forced the Chinese government to reverse the planned privatization of the metal plant and reversal of the dismissal of 20 000 of the 25 000 workers.
It may be that the Samwu worker leaders (or at least part of them) have not been conscious of the implications of the policy of the 'stayaway', so we propose this fighting action plan to win the strike.
At its recent Congress, Samwu adopted a resolution for calling a conference to 'conscientize' workers. Here, in the strike, are the best conditions for an open conference. Here are proposed steps to immediately advance and strengthen the strike:
1. First call mass general meetings of strikers in every town and city, in order to regroup and plan the next steps such as setting up strike committees (based on the right of instant recall of any leader, national or local) and self-defence committees (on the same recall principle), for every depot or municipal workplace;
2. Occupy strategic depots and municipal workplaces and then extend the occupation to all municipal workplaces;
3. call mass meetings in every working class area and set up strike support committees, led by municipal workers.;
4. call meetings with all other unions(allocate this task to the strike committees), including soldiers unions, to give concrete support by giving 7 day notice of solidarity strikes, after a process of mass workplace meetings and election of strike/factory committees (which task should include self-defence committees, especially due to the harsh attacks by the red ants [ANC armed thugs]);
5. the election of local councils of delegates of employed, unemployed and soldiers to co-ordinate the solidarity strike action; the immediate calling of a national workers summit of delegates from all workplaces (unionised and non-unionised), from working class communities, including delegates from the unemployed and from soldiers, to plan a general strike, not only in support of the municipal strike, but against the entire imperialist structural adjustment programmes/plans. in every community, care should be taken to include delegates from immigrant workers so their demands are also raised at the workers summit; demands such as full backpay for municipal workers, equal pay for equal work (including immigrant workers), limiting salaries of managers and ministers to that of an average skilled worker, right of instant recall of all government representatives, sharing all work among all who can work, increase wages when prices increase, expropriate all imperialist assets (including all commercial farms and the banks), without compensation to the capitalists, and placing them under workers control, invite delegates from Zimbabwe and Madagascar workers and rank and file soldiers to the summit, and indeed worker and rank and file soldiers delegates from all of Southern Africa.
Call general meetings, set up mass strike committees, occupy, resist, all united under one slogan: BREAK WITH THE BOURGEOISIE! BREAK WITH THE PACIFISM OF THE SACP AND ANC!
Long live the fighting spirit of the woking class of Kyrgyzstan! Forward to Working class power!

Shaheed Mahomed
African Secretariat
International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction.
with the support of the International Co-ordination Secretariat
1st Floor, Community House
41 Salt River rd
Salt River
South Africa
ph 0822020617
fax 0865486048

affiliated to the International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction integrated by
Liga Trotskista Internacionalista , (LTI) de Bolivia
Fraccion Trotskista , (FT) de Brasil
Partido Obrero Internactionaista- CI (POI-CI) , de Chile
Liga Obrera Internacionalista- CI (LOI-CI) Argentina
Liga Trotskista Internacionalista- (LTI)Peru
Workers International Vanguard League (WIVL) South Africa
Revolutionary Internationalist Group- Zimbabwe (in process of affiliating)

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