Numsa 1st Deputy President
28th November 2012
“South Africa has a developed capitalist economy. In our country, and wherever it exists, the capitalist mode of production has the same basic characteristics. It is an exploitative system based on the extraction of surplus value from wage labour. But the universal features of capitalism occur within concrete societies, each with its own specific balance of class forces and particular economic, political and ideological features. In different capitalist countries the bourgeoisie exerts its class rule through different kinds of domination, ranging from bourgeois democracy to fascism.
Like many earlier oppressor classes, the bourgeoisie also exerts its class rule across frontiers. In the imperialist epoch, capitalism has extensively developed its own variants of colonial, semi-colonial and neo-colonial rule, underpinning the brutal super-exploitation of working people in the dominated societies.
Within South Africa, bourgeois domination and capitalist relations of production, which emerged within the context of colonialism, have been developed and maintained since 1910 through a specific variant of bourgeois rule - colonialism of a special type.
It is a variant of capitalist rule in which the essential features of colonial domination in the imperialist epoch are maintained and even intensified. But there is one specific peculiarity: in South Africa the colonial ruling class with its white support base on the one hand, and the oppressed colonial majority on the other, are located within a single country.”
(The South African Communist Party, in “The Path to Power”, 1987)
A. Overview of world class struggles
1. All delegates to this very important Numsa National Pre Collective Bargaining Conference must be very clear in their mind about the state of the world we live in today, and the class struggles going on.
2. We at NUMSA have consistently maintained that the current global capitalist crisis is historic both in terms of its size and contradiction. Never before has the global capitalist system suffered such a deep seated and structural crisis.
3. The symptoms and effects of the global crisis of the capitalist system include the crisis in the global financial system, massive debts of the US and European countries, threatening these countries with bankruptcies.
4. The severe global unemployment crisis, on all the Continents of the world, affecting more significantly and severely, the youths, women and rural population.
5. The massive restructuring of the workplace including mass casualisation, retrenchments, flexi labour practices, constant short time, outright closures of plants and factories, and the general global job insecurity and massive use of labour brokers.
6. It is these conditions which have fuelled the mass strikes, national demonstrations and general state of global labour unless in the world today.
7. The response of the bourgeoisie has been to transfer the failures of their global capitalist system to the working class not through the restructuring of the workplace as explained in (5) above, but also by forcing governments to bail out failing banks, to cut back on social services and to loot pension funds, among many other austerity measures.
8. Obviously, all this hardship has also fuelled the revolution for democracy in the Mid East and North Africa, among many other parts of the world.
B. South Africa today
9. NUMSA fully agrees with the South African Communist Party analysis and description of the form of capitalist economy and society South Africa has, we call it Colonialism of a Special Type, or simply, “Internal Colonialism”.
10. In South Africa today, no matter how hard anyone may try to hide it, the fact remains that the South African economy and society is white and foreign dominated.
11. In the past 18 years since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, the all the formations of the Liberation Movement have acknowledged that it has failed to transform the basic colonial features of South African economy and society.
12. At the bottom of the South African economy and society are the black and African working class, and the rural poor, who too are largely black and African.
13. The evils of Colonialism of a Special Type (mass unemployment, mass poverty and extreme inequalities largely affecting the black and African working class) combined with the ongoing crisis of the world capitalist system have led to the lives of black and African workers simply becoming a living hell in South Africa today.
14. It is this situation, the combined suffering from Colonialism of a Special Type in conditions of worsening capitalist crisis which we have correctly attributed to the causes of the Marikana Massacre.
15. In very simple terms, the South African working class, especially the majority of the Black and African working class, among whom more than 50% earn less than R300 00 per month, cannot survive anymore on the wages won for them through collective bargaining.
16. The Black and African working class are revolting at the continuing low, Apartheid and colonial wages which they have been receiving even through collective bargaining processes after 1994.
C. Collective Bargaining in this period of capitalist crisis
17. In the 11th Congress of Cosatu in September this year, in its Declaration, Cosatu says the following:
“Workers are demanding that the People Shall Share in the Country`s Wealth.
Our members are speaking through our structures, demonstrating their lack of patience through wildcat strikes and service delivery protests. Our members are sending us a clear message:
They are demanding an end to starvation wages that in the main affects the black working class. They are demanding that the unions should spare no efforts to fight against these poverty wages and near slavery working conditions in most of the sectors of the economy.
They are telling us that they have had enough of the unfulfilled promise to implement the Freedom Charter.
They demand a radical change in their socio-economic conditions, and the creation of a powerful developmental state, which intervenes decisively in strategic sectors of the economy. This requires a radical shift in economic policy, and a full implementation of the Freedom Charter! They are communicating a strong message that political freedom may soon be meaningless without economic freedom.”
18. As we engage in the difficult task of bargaining for the wages of the working class, especially the Black and African working class, we have to bear in mind the following:
a. The Black and African working class are revolting against the low, Apartheid and capitalist colonial wages which have been their lot from 1910 to date, in South Africa;
b. Cosatu has called for all its affiliates to wage war against the low, Apartheid colonial wages;
c. In all our industries and sectors, we must fight, together with Cosatu, for a living wage; and
d. Any union that ignores the fact that the Black and African working class are rising against their continued relegation to the bottom of the South African economy and society risks being rejected and discarded in the bin of history!
19. We cannot afford, as NUMSA, to follow our members from behind, we have to be with them, and to lead them, that is why they formed this giant metal workers union – so that combined, their power can be a collective weapon for them to win their war against capitalism in general and the bosses in particular.
D. Tasks for effective collective bargaining
20. I suggest the following among other things and revolutionary principles, to guide us in all our deliberations and plans for collective bargaining:
a. We must not shy away from examining and discussing even the collective bargaining system itself in South Africa, post 1994: has it trapped us as Black and African workers into a low, Apartheid capitalist colonial wage regime?
b. At all material times, we must rely on properly and democratically gathered mandates from our members.
c. More than at any other time, the unity of our members is sacrosanct at this time; we must isolate and defeat all efforts that have the potential to weaken us, to divide us, to confuse us. Maximum revolutionary unity must be demanded from all of us.
d. This means that, as our General Secretary has told all NUMSA organisers, we must be with the workers and our members all the time, listen to them, engage them, and gather mandates, at all material times.
e. We are entering, in 2013, a very difficult bargaining year. The bosses will try and do everything possible to remind us that they cannot afford the wage demands from our members. We must defeat such lies and propaganda.
f. We will need accurate information on profit levels and the living conditions of our members, in order to make meaningful and revolutionary wage demands that must not only satisfy the immediate needs of our members, but also contribute to attacking the low, Apartheid capitalist colonial wages for Black and African workers in this country, and contribute to the struggle for a living wage for all workers in South Africa.
21. I know we are all tired, after our own Numsa and Cosatu congresses. Others attend the 11th Cosatu Congress. 2012 has been a hard tough year. Others here must still go to Mangaung for the ANC watershed 53rd Conference.
22. Still, we have important work to do in this Pre Collective Bargaining Conference, and we must approach it with the seriousness it deserves, and do the best we can!
Still, allow me to wish all of us a restful festive season and a revolutionary 2013!
1st Deputy President
28th November 2013