June – the month of youth

June 16 in South Africa represents a defining moment in our national democratic revolution, when young people with a thirst and hunger for a non-racial, non- sexist and democratic South Africa confronted a heavily armed apartheid security apparatus.

The political driver in the congress movement at the time was the Freedom Charter, whose 55th anniversary we observed on June 26 this year 2010.

As we celebrate the Freedom Charter, in defining where we are in relation to the class contestation within the national liberation movement, we are reminded of how the ANC national consultative conference at Kabwe, Zambia, in June 1985, characterised the Freedom Charter:

“Although the Freedom Charter is not a programme for socialism, it must, nevertheless, be distinguished from a conventional bourgeois-democratic programme.

In its third and fourth clauses, the Charter projects the seizure of economic assets presently owned either by South African capitalist firms or trans-national corporations.

Such measures will strip the present ruling class of the actual substance of its power, by seizing hold of the commanding heights of the economy.

People’s power, as conceived within our movement, will therefore entail a democratic revolution of a new type, in which the interests of the working people, of town and countryside, will be pre-eminent.”

Young people must appreciate that the partially defeated 1996 class project, combined with the post-Polokwane tendency, has been working aggressively against this characterisation of the 1985 Kabwe conference.

They do not want to be stripped of their newly acquired class power when we seize the commanding heights of the economy in the interest of the working class and the poor.

This is the essence of counter-revolution that we are witnessing in the current period.

Of more relevance to young people who are students, employed or unemployed, the most directly relevant sections of the Freedom Charter, which require an intensified fight with the state and capital, speaks the following;

There shall be Work and Security!
All who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers;

The state shall recognise the right and duty of all to work, and to draw full unemployment benefits; Men and women of all races shall receive equal pay for equal work;

There shall be a 40-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers, and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers;
Miners, domestic workers, farm workers and civil servants shall have the same rights as all others who work;

Child labour, compound labour, the tot system and contract labour shall be abolished.
The Doors of Learning and Culture shall be opened!

The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life;

All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands;

The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace;

Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit;

Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan; Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens; The colour bar in cultural life, in sport and in education shall be abolished.

We should pride ourselves on the honour of launching the Numsa national youth desk on March 27 – 28 March this year and nine (9) chapters of regional youth desks.

On this occasion, we posed the following challenge for young metalworkers:
What are key drivers to ensure the Numsa youth desk respond to the challenges of young metalworkers?

The difference between the current period and the struggle against apartheid is the fact that students, youth in the religious sector, unemployed and employed youth were active participants in the execution of the national democratic struggle.

Youth activism produced leadership in all organs of the national liberation movement, not least the trade union movement.

Young workers are more educated and have a serious appetite for the better things in life; they generally find themselves in higher skilled jobs that return fairly good wages and benefits.

The ideological drivers for bringing all workers together in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, irrespective of age, gender, race or creed,) must be located in the following revolutionary principles;

• unity;

• democracy, collectivism and worker control;

• discipline;

• faith and belief in the working class;

• integrating factory struggles with community struggles as working class struggles;

• socialism; and

• internationalism.

These drivers must find expression in our day-to-day work of organising, conscientising and mobilising young metalworkers.

These drivers will help the Numsa national youth desk to foster revolutionary relationships with other working class youth formations and young people in general.

These drivers must distinguish us from the normal, the routine, the new culture of crass materialism, from corrupt practices, from the tenderpreneurs and the reactionary forces who seek to derail or liquidate our National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and our march to a socialist South Africa.

Different circumstances
Today we have different circumstances in the workplace, in which young workers are almost always at odds with older workers in the production process.

New organisational tools and responses are required to deal with the exploitation of young and old workers.

The Numsa youth desk must become an organic university that produces cadres of young metalworkers who believe in Lenin’s perspective that “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”.

Numsa calls on young people in general and young metalworkers in particular to appreciate that they have a revolutionary task to move ever forward and never backwards.

We trust that June, as youth month, shall serve as to reawaken of young people to renew their revolutionary credentials for the execution of a radical, socialist-orientated national democratic revolution.

Karl Cloete is Numsa deputy general secretary
Numsa News No 2, July 2010