Letters: From Our Readers

Open letters to Shopstewards

Dear Numsa shop stewards,Numsa's induction course for new shop stewards emphasises regular attendance at meetings, not only constitutional meetings but all meetings that are convened. This is more specific in chapter 4 (1)(e) of the constitution.Some shopstewards need to be reminded that as members they own the organisation.

They are stakeholders. Without members, staff, shopstewards and office bearers the union will not obtain its objectives. See chapter 1 (5) of the constitution.

The national union started with one fundamental and democratic process of shopstewards elections. Unfortunately in my area there is a lull. There is poor attendance at union activities. Why does this bad situation prevail now? Is it election fever or the “never mind” attitude?The term of office for a committed shopsteward only ends when the baton is handed over to the next foot soldier.

The induction course should remind comrades about the history of trade unionism in this country and where Numsa comes from (its own history). Our collective bargaining conference theme sharpened our minds about how to confront the logic of capital.

We need to attend meetings and workshops so as to engage at different levels and strategise. Comrades must not forget where we come from and why we agree to be elected as workers' representatives.

This union has just completed 20 years of existence. We cannot afford to see it being ruined by shopstewards who are not committed to umzabalazo. To those comrades that are still committed to this organisation, go forward and hope that members will realize that you are true leaders and re-elect you!Forward with democratic elections forward!

Mirriam Makhalemele, regional educator, Sedibeng region

Dear comradesI must congratulate our national, regional, local and all bargaining representatives for their success and hard work during the bargaining period. Salute! A job well done! I believe all sectors can proudly say Numsa greatly did what was expected from them.

All sectors uniting in strikes across South Africa, confronting the logic of capital successfully.As an ex-Numsa shop steward my concerns are becoming greater each day. I resigned as a shop steward due to victimisation by shop stewards in the same council and company.

The worst of all is that it is jumping up in other companies. At Guestro Forging, a shop steward calls meetings in his constituency to discuss other shop stewards, forgetting the struggle we are in.At VWSA, two shop stewards are up in arms against each other.

At Goodyear the shop steward council must jump to defend Numsa because of the acts of a fellow shop steward. In Kromberg and Schubart shop stewards are getting dismissed like sweet cakes and organisers are to blame.What is happening to our leaders? Without a doubt I can say all these trouble makers have lost the concept of leadership.

They are driving their own interest and personal agendas. They are not destroying each other, but our organisation. Fluffy unions jump up like popcorn and swallow our members. I sincerely request our leadership to jump in and resolve these uncalled for issues.

Irvin Jim always used to ask me: "Are you still a strong shop steward?" My answer was always "Yes!". Sadly enough I have fallen as a dry leaf from the tree.

With the upcoming shop steward elections I will avail myself and if elected, I will become a greater and much stronger shop steward.Please comrades let us build our organisation and not break it.Manie Pienaar, Guestro Forging and Machining, Uitenhage

Basebenzi: Yibambeni ngee-mpondo! One of the cultures of Numsa is its ability to agree to disagree on issues and its culture of constructive criticism even when critiquing itself as an organisation. As an ex-Numsa member and student I am still part of this revolutionary alliance.

I want to use your internal media to critique, instead of the dog-eat-dog outside media which is just a political tease! V.I Lenin said "No profound and popular movement has ever occurred in history without dirty scum rising to the top, without… rogues, boasters and ranters" being tossed up.

To ensure that none of our worker-unions degenerates or gets poached for whatever reason and dislodges us from our revolutionary path, I want to share these views with you. If my views make you uncomfortable then I will have achieved my political objective! I believe that some issues deserve neither response nor tolerance, but rather aggressive and hostile engagement, and the principles that form the basis of 'the proletariat dictatorship' are supportive of this contention.

In our ideological struggle against capitalism and its ideology, especially during the current political epoch, when we face a wide variety of challenges including infiltration of our worker-unions by agents of the right, an aggressive logical engagement becomes justifiable.

However more work needs to be done to strengthen democratic centralism and not centralisation within our organisation. I'm mentioning this because I think that labour unionists should either be socialists or communists. Anything outside of this should not be tolerated or acceptable at all.

And according to my analysis this should be the workers' language otherwise the grounds for slogans such as "Numsa for Socialism" "Cosatu for Socialism" will perish. Tribalists, Racists, Misogynists, Mbekitalists or Zumanists (that is if there are any), worker 'leaders' who are still protective of the ANC's neo-liberal policies and all petty bourgeois tendencies emerging from within our unions should not be given breathing space. If we are serious about our struggle for socialism we need radicalism, frankness and of course a large dose of honesty.

I believe that the ANC-led alliance has proved to be a non-feasible platform for advancing fundamental socialist strategies. Neither Zuma nor Mbeki will lead us to socialism. Socialism itself will not come and has never come by influence or rank-swelling. We need a workers' revolution.

Perhaps we should take the bull by its horns and put Zwelinzima Vavi or support Blade Ndzimande as a presidential candidate in a workers' party and then invite the ANC to join us if its NEC wants to. Remember comrades we are the working class and not economists or stockbrokers.

Our leaders in particular those from 'insimbi' should be strong and honest. You are leading a proletariat that is exploited daily by the 'selfish pigs'. Even if you have to be "problematic", "uncivilised" or look like a "bunch of drunks" to the capitalists and their henchmen, in order for you to advance the workers' cause, we do not mind. We'll fight alongside you. Perhaps this is the attitude that we should all adopt.

There is one thing that I won't tolerate as a revolutionary, that is to have any one of our leaders who are close to the masters for what ever reason(s). Gandhi – despite his utterances on Africans – once made mention that "even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth" and the truth now is that the working class needs to be very vigilant of worker 'leaders' who are still "marching along lost roads".

They are delaying our struggle. A particular example of this is the recent display by 'Numsa' in the 9th Cosatu congress. It was very inspiring to observe that workers from in and out of Numsa still acknowledge the quality of Numsa cadres to such an extent that they would nominate its cadre to the highest office in Cosatu.

Whatever transpired after that is now history. But I'm sure that many workers are still left wondering: was it a discretion question? Or was it part of the ideological struggle within our unions? (it would be very unfortunate if this was the case).

Leon Trotsky (despite his own mistakes) once warned of the danger of an organisation's executive replacing the organisation, and further, to be wary of elected leaders then replacing the executive.

I think that all pronunciations by either our leadership or our delegates anywhere need to reflect the actual views of the general union membership and to this end the Cosatu presidential election results gave a clear glimpse.

Therefore I require from Numsa a responsive leadership that is able to think on its feet and take the bull by the horns.

Nevertheless, the very successful congress is gone now. Let's focus on key issues ie the bargaining council. Let's implement the resolutions of our own congress. Let's develop 'thick skins' and aggression against the 'thieves'. Let's continue with our revolutionary struggle very violently without being in conflict with the law.

LET'S BUILD SOCIALISM, NOW! Madwara "Bo" Thamsanqa is a retrenched Numsa member from Continental Tyres now studying at Nelson Mandela University.