Setting the record straight

As the General Secretary of Numsa, I have an organisational obligation to set the record straight, particularly with regards to the recent attacks levelled against the leadership of the Federation and certain leaders of affiliates.

As the Federation has asserted in the recent past, these attacks are nothing else but an attempt which will not succeed in diverting the Alliance and the country from the real issues of poverty and spiralling unemployment. We will continue, no matter what, to raise these issues in the public domain in the best interests of the class we represent.

We are damned if we do, we are damned if we don't!

In Amilcar Cabral's words: "Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories."

In our recent Cosatu Central Executive Committee (CEC) this month, in an analysis characterising this environment, we made the following observations:

Character of the ANC

The ANC is a broad church, like Cosatu and Sanco. Its ranks and leadership have always included both worker leaders and people who ideologically do not support working class leadership of the struggle.

Historically the ANC has been a left movement, but that does not mean other ideologies and political perspectives have been entirely excluded or defeated. Rather, the ANC has always been the site of continual class battles to determine the dominant hegemony. In the current situation, the vast majority of ANC members and leaders still support a working class perspective but:

a substantial and powerful minority wants a push to the right, and government has largely imposed free-market economic policies.

This effectively ignores the resolutions of repeated ANC conferences and the Election Manifesto, which would require much more vigorous action to alleviate poverty and unemployment. at least from the early 1950s, the working class established hegemony in the ANC.

This was reflected in the Freedom Charter, the 1969 Strategy and Tactics and the RDP. from the late '80s however, local and foreign capital showed renewed interest in contesting working class dominance in the movement.

This situation arose as the ANC became the main political power in South Africa , while internationally the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a growing centralisation of power around the US .

Recent trends in class formation have fundamentally affected the contestation for hegemony in the ANC. within the forces hostile to Cosatu and in fact, to the Alliance itself, is a small but very vocal block that is trying to win the day by changing the culture of the ANC itself.

It essentially seeks to revive some of the negative tendencies that emerged, more or less unavoidably, in the movement when in exile and therefore forced it to operate conspiratorially.

The recent vilifications against the leadership of the Federation and its affiliates are nothing else but a resurgence of this grouping within the ranks of the movement. This movement, the ANC, does not belong to this grouping – it belongs to the masses of our people who sacrificed their lives for the attainment of our freedom. It is these same masses who will defend the working class character of the ANC.

The myth about the ultra-left

Despite our efforts during the WSSD to organise an Alliance March, we must concede that our failure as the Alliance to mobilise our people led to the ultra-left successfully undermining the Alliance march on this day.

As a result of our own failure to take up community issues such as evictions, electricity cut-offs, etc. etc. the ultra-left has opportunistically seized the struggles that should have been led by the ANC-led alliance.

As a result of this situation, some of the largest and more vocal organisations of civil society are now led by a genuine ultra-left. The strongest of these organisations are the Anti-Privatisation Forum, the Anti-Evictions Forum in the Western Cape and the Landless People's Movement. What becomes much more dangerous, is the extent to which their views find sympathy within the ranks of the trade union movement.

For this reason, whereas this is not the case, the authoritarian clique in the ANC tries to identify Cosatu with the ultra-left.

The ultra-left is defined by an unwillingness to form coalitions or look for any solutions within the current system – Cosatu and affiliates cannot be part of the ultra-left.

Indeed, no trade union can afford to adopt an ultra-left approach. Unions must seek to improve their members' situation within the existing capitalist system, both on the shopfloor and in community struggles in terms of policy interventions.

In addition, Cosatu recognises that the ANC brings together the most progressive and working people in South Africa . Unlike the ultra-left, we will therefore not oppose the ANC as a matter of principle, nor do we seek to establish a new party.

On the ANC Conference and leadership of the working class

We have reaffirmed the Federation's Congress resolutions that our members should swell the ranks of the ANC, not as a sectarian grouping as our detractors would want us to behave, but as a representative class majority in the ANC.

We have no doubt that we will see a large delegation of metalworkers in Stellenbosch. Unfortunately, the Federation has been allocated a delegation of 10 leaders. We are not bothered, we will make a difference in the Conference as we did in the Policy Conference. The Federation will produce an edition of the Shop Stewards Bulletin before the Conference to assist our members, as ANC delegates in the Conference.

Personal note

On a personal note, had it not been for your support as staff, elected leaders, activists and shop stewards, members and your families, we would not have been able in 2002 to turn things around in the Union. For the first time in years, your Union , Numsa, is on a sound financial footing. Thanks to the NFC/NOBs, RFC/ROBs, LOBs for your support, we have made it – watch this space!

Thanks once more, we are struggling against our own weaknesses, look after your families and friends.

Happy Christmas and New Year, to our Muslim members, I wish you well over the month of Ramadaan and a joyous Eid Mubarak! And to everyone, enjoy the festive season and see you in 2003.

Silumko Nondwangu

General Secretary