“How many times has a labour movement supported a liberation movement, only to find itself betrayed on the day of liberation?”

Speaking of dissent…  The death of Nelson Mandela appears to have opened the door to some potentially significant criticism of the current leadership of the ANC.  As the BBC reports, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the largest trade union in South Africa, has withdrawn its support for the ruling party of government.  From the BBC report

The BBC’s Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg says this should be a wake-up call for the ANC not to take its anti-apartheid support base for granted.

“It is clear that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP [Communist Party] as its class allies in any meaningful sense,” said Numsa leader Irvin Jim.

Mr Jim also called on President Zuma to resign, saying his administration had been linked to too many scandals.

He said the union would explore the possibility of setting up a new, socialist party.

The governing party is already under pressure from the newly-formed Economic Freedom Fighters of former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who wants to nationalise South Africa’s rich mines and land.

A Reuters UK report adds

Union support helped propel Zuma to power in 2009 but the relationship has soured since police shot dead 34 striking miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine last year, the bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid.

There has also been a public outcry over a $21 million state-funded security upgrade to Zuma’s private home.

The declaration from the union’s Special National Congress begins by invoking the spirit of Mandela [pdf file]

The congress started by paying tribute to Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as a giant in our struggle for liberation. His passing marks the end of a political era in our journey towards full freedom.

The congress agreed that, if we are to truthfully and fully honour Mandela and his Comrades, his passing must herald the birth of our renewed commitment to intensify the struggle for full economic sovereignty, for complete economic freedom of the working class and the rural poor. His passing must spur us to fight even harder for the attainment of all the ideals he stood for: liberty, freedom, dignity, democracy and full social and economic equality of all human beings. Not to do so, will be to betray him and his Comrades.

The Congress remembered vividly the words Madiba offered to the Cosatu Special National Congress in 1993, when he said:

You must be vigilant! How many times has a labour movement supported a liberation movement, only to find itself betrayed on the day of liberation?  There are many examples of this in Africa. If the ANC does not deliver the goods you must do to it what you did to the apartheid regime.

And it goes on, in detail, to spell out the union’s criticism of the ANC government of South Africa

5. The crisis of deindustrialisation and unemployment

Both the Numsa President and the General Secretary set out very clearly and at length the context for the deliberations of the Congress.

The global crisis of capitalism continues and offers a bleak future for any emerging economy that fails to build its own manufacturing industry. South Africa is not only failing to increase industrialisation. The ANC government, including its component from the leadership of the SACP, has presided over a dramatic decrease in the levels of industrialisation in the country.

This is not an accident; it does not come from incompetence or inefficiency on the part of the ANC and SACP leadership. It comes from the fact that the leadership of the ANC and SACP is protecting the interests of white monopoly capital and imperialism against the interests of the working class. The ANC and SACP leadership defends the ownership and control of the mines, banks and monopoly industries in the hands of white monopoly capital and imperialism. The manipulation of the resolution by the ANC branches on nationalisation by the leadership, the Deputy President of the ANC (and others), exploit the black working class in alliance with white monopoly capitalism and imperialism.

That is why South Africa has been steadily deindustrialising. It is not in the interests of mining and finance capital to invest in manufacturing industry, especially that part which does not affect the MEFC. That is why South Africa has such high levels of unemployment. It is in manufacturing industry that large numbers of jobs can be created. That is why our comrades died as they did at Marikana and de Doorns. It was not incompetence on the part of the police. It was the conscious, deliberate support, by the armed forces of the state, for the interests of shareholders and against the interests of workers.

6. Four key developments since Numsa’s 9th Congress

Many things have happened since Numsa’s 9th congress. We will highlight 4 of them in this declaration.


The ANC has adopted a strategic programme – the National Development Plan. The fault of the NDP is not that it is technically flawed or in need of adjustment and editing. On the contrary, it is a very competent and detailed document. Its fault is that it is the programme of our class enemy. It is a programme to continue to feed profit at the expense of the working class and the poor. It is a strategic plan that will benefit white monopoly capital, imperialism and the comprador black capitalist class, not us.

In the order of priorities of the ANC, the NDP has replaced the Freedom Charter. A militant, popular programme which challenged property relations in South Africa has been replaced by a neo-liberal programme which entrenches existing property relations and attacks the working class and the poor in the interests of mining and finance capital.

The ANC leadership has clarified that it will not tolerate any challenge

The ANC leadership has demonstrated without doubt, at Mangaung, that they will not allow anybody else to challenge their direction. The National General Council of 2010, and Policy Conference which preceded the Mangaung Conference, had a clear majority in favour of nationalisation. That majority was transformed by the ANC leadership into majority support for a fundamentally opposed position in which the National Development Plan focuses on reducing the role of the state rather than increasing it.

Cosatu has experienced a sustained, vicious attack on its militancy and independence

Cosatu has become consumed by internal battles between forces which continue to support the ANC and SACP, with its neo-liberal agenda and those which are fighting for an independent, militant federation which stands for the interests of the working class before any other. In the process Numsa has been continuously vilified and smeared by those opposed to its militant approach, in Cosatu itself, in the ANC and in the SACP.

The state attacked and killed workers on behalf of capital

Both at Marikana and in the farmworkers strike in the Western Cape, the armed forces of the state intervened in support of the owners of capital against striking workers. In both instances the result was the murder of workers whose only crime was to refuse to sell their labour for less than a living wage.

In summary

The ANC has been captured by representatives of an enemy class. It has adopted the strategic plan of that class. Its leadership has shown that it will not let the small issue of democracy get in the way of defending its control. As well as the continued poverty of the majority of the working class, the result of this has been the slaughter of workers. [added emphasis]

It is clear from this picture that the working class cannot any longer see the ANC or the SACP as its class allies in any meaningful sense.

And on the historic alliance between the ANC, the South African Communist Party [SACP] and the Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU]

9. On the Alliance


The congress noted the history and current situation of the Alliance and its partners:

The Alliance is dysfunctional and captured by rightwing forces

The Alliance is dysfunctional, in crisis, paralysed and dominated by infighting and factionalism. It has been captured by rightwing forces. As a result:

The Freedom Charter, which we understood as the minimum platform of the Alliance, has been completely abandoned in favour of rightwing and neo-liberal policies such as the National Development Plan (NDP).

Those who are perceived to be against neo-liberalism or to be advocates of policies in favour of the working class and the poor are seen as problematic, isolated or purged.

There exists little common understanding within the Alliance of the real objectives of the National Democratic Revolution.

The Alliance does not lead struggle

Although there are protests everywhere and every day in the country, the Alliance is not an instrument in the hands of these struggling masses, nor does it provide leadership to these struggles, which are largely leaderless struggles. The reality is that there is a political vacuum and the working class is on its own.

The Alliance is just for elections

The Alliance operates only during election periods. It is used to rubber stamp neo-liberal policies of the ANC and not as a centre of power that debates policy issues and implementation. It is our experience that the working class is being used by the leader of the Alliance – the African National Congress – as voting fodder.

The ANC is the only strategic centre

The ANC has resisted the reconfiguration of the Alliance into a strategic political centre where issues of policy, deployments into government and programmes are jointly decided upon by all Alliance components. Our strategy of swelling the ranks has not worked and all resolutions of COSATU congresses in relation to how the Alliance should function have not been implemented by the leaders of the Alliance.

In practice the Alliance is still in the hands of one alliance partner, the ANC. The ANC is the centre and implements government programmes and policies alone, with little or no consultation with other components of the Alliance. It has made it very clear that it has no intention of allowing this situation to change. As evidence of this, the recent alliance summit still failed to make fundamental changes to the NDP and had no significant impact in changing policies in favour of the working class and the poor.

This is a common development in post-colonial countries

The treatment of labour as a junior partner within the Alliance is not uniquely a South African phenomenon. In many post-colonial and post-revolutionary situations, liberation and revolutionary movements have turned on labour movements that fought alongside them, suppressed them, marginalised them, split them, robbed them of their independence or denied them any meaningful role in politics and policy-making.

There is no chance of winning back the Alliance or the SACP

There is no chance of winning back the Alliance to what it was originally formed for, which was to drive a revolutionary programme for fundamental transformation of the country, with the Freedom Charter as the minimum platform to transform the South African economy.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) leadership has become embedded in the state and is failing to act as the vanguard of the working class. The chance of winning it back onto the path of working class struggle for working class power is very remote.

The working class needs a political organisation

For the struggle for socialism, the working class needs a political organisation committed in theory and practice to socialism.

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