When you read this editorial some of you will be in the Numsa special national congress.
Others will read it after very important decisions will have been taken at this special congress. These decisions could change the face of South African politics and trade union politics.
You all know by now the issues for discussion at this special national congress because you have attended, debated and discussed these six issues in factory meetings, in local policy workshops, regional policy workshops and some of you in regional congresses since October 2013.
The six issues that we will discuss and debate are:
• The Alliance
• COSATU and the labour movement
• The 2014 elections
• Positioning NUMSA as a shield and spear of struggling workers
• NUMSA Service Charter
• Section 77 campaign
The challenges confronting the labour movement and the Alliance
Our hopes were high after the ANC Polokwane Conference. We thought we had won working class leadership of the ANC and therefore the ANC would deliver to the working class. We had hoped that the Alliance would work in unity and cohesion and in the interests of the working class, as a political centre.
However, our last national congress in 2012 was not so positive about the alliance. It said that there were serious problems with it: it does not function; the state is untransformed; the ANC leads the Alliance without giving others in the alliance any say and the ANC and Alliance are unable to “move the country onto a new political path”.
Despite this, we said that we still support the Alliance, its unity and cohesion was in the interest of the working class and that we would campaign to establish the Alliance as the strategic political centre and to restructure it.
However at the ANC’s Mangaung Conference in December 2012 the bourgeoisie dominated. We won in Mangaung on the issue of the nationalisation of strategic minerals, but the leadership changed what we agreed and took out references to nationalisation. The National Development Plan (NDP) was adopted. The ANC made it clear that all other policies and strategies must be subordinated to the NDP.
Numsa’s Central Committee was clear that the NDP is a neo-liberal plan; it is a continuation of GEAR, which threatens the working class and reinforces existing colonial and capitalist property relations.
Even our vanguard the SACP is soft on the NDP and has accepted the entire document except the economic sections, after our own criticisms. This fits with its adoption of a 5-year plan at its congress in 2012 -the “South African Road to Socialism” which fails to identify the alignment of class forces and their balance, or to raise the property question, which is fundamental to any communist as the Communist Manifesto tells us.
We have to address the structural challenges of the economy especially the ownership of the economy. It is only when we take control of the commanding heights that we can then deal with the crisis of mass poverty, widespread unemployment, extreme inequalities and dwindling industrialization, amongst other problems.
Most regions are saying that it is time to propose to Cosatu that we break from the alliance. Others are asking us to try harder.
What is obvious however, is that Numsa cannot allow itself to be led by a dead, non-militant, reactionary toy telephone Cosatu whose main role will be to campaign for electoral victories of the ANC!
There is a serious crisis in Cosatu. At stake is the continuing militant and socialist revolutionary unity of nearly two million workers organised into 19 affiliates.
Cosatu has always been guided by clear values and attributes such as:
• Revolutionary Socialism and anti-imperialism
• Militant struggle for transformation
• Championing democracy
• The abhorrence of and fighting all forms of colonial, male chauvinist and racist prejudices
• Believing in working class power, and advocating worker control, not only of the progressive trade union movement, but of society as a whole.
This is the Cosatu that Numsa is fighting to retain; strangely, both SACP and ANC leadership are the ones who have allowed imperialism not just to continue but to increase; and they are the ones who accuse us of being used by the imperialist forces. South African mines, banks and monopoly industries are imperialist owned, and these imperialist owners are using South Africa as a launch pad and cover for the naked exploitation of the Southern African region.
The simple explanation of the crisis is that it is about the suspension of Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, from Cosatu, who, it is said, is “flirting with the workerists at NUMSA”. We all know that the conflict is about much more than this: the conflict is between those that want to change Cosatu into the lapdog of the ANC and SACP, and those who want to retain Cosatu’s independence and its militancy, as emphasised in the Cosatu 9th Congress resolutions.
The signs of disunity were there at Cosatu’s congress in 2012 and they were there early this year when Cosatu failed to carry out its militant congress mandate.
Your regions are telling us that you are still committed to a united, militant federation and that you will work with other like-minded affiliates at all levels, to make Cosatu a fighting federation again. But you also say that if all these efforts fail, Numsa should look at building an alternative federation.
Our Demands and The Freedom Charter
The Freedom Charter is gathering political dust. Engels says “Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat”.
Therefore we demand its full working class-led implementation, without compensation, as the basis for a socialist transition:
• Re-nationalisation of Telkom and cell phone networks,
• Nationalise the financial system, which includes the Reserve Bank, commercial banks and insurance companies,
• Nationalise land without compensation,
• Nationalise Cement Industry and Quarries
• Nationalise the Forestry Sector,
• Have a state construction company (for houses, schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, clinics, roads, dams, bridges etc.),
• Have a state pharmaceutical company (to support NHI), and
• Strengthen the state-owned transport system, among others.
As Numsa our view is that without these measures it will be impossible to build a vibrant manufacturing base, which requires strong linkages within and between sectors. That is why we call for:
• Nationalisation of Arcelor-Mittal, the mines and other monopoly industries, since metal production is impossible without minerals
• Nationalisation of SASOL, because without liquid fuels and other petrochemicals, manufacturing, food-processing and agriculture is impossible.
• Nationalisation of heavy machine-building and earth-moving equipment sector, in this regard we call for the nationalization of Barloworld which is a monopoly distributor of capital goods equipment.
• Over and above a state-owned and state-directed beneficiation, we need to raise the local procurement of both public and private sectors, especially wholesale and retail trade sectors.
As metalworkers, we need to demand that South Africa manufactures its own vehicles. The military technology that exists in Denel must be converted to commercial use. This is one of the issues that are contained in the RDP.
The state must take lead and own an automotive company, and there must be regulation of the automotive sector to ensure that it contributes to industrial development.
Of course we need to:
• Overhaul macroeconomic, trade and industrial policy.
• Close the apartheid wage gap NOW and elaborate a radical, pro-working class labour market policy, which should include a ban on labour brokers!
• Aggressive employment equity targets and employment and management must reflect the country’s demographics (training of Africans, career-paths, etc.).
• Strategic use of the public sector and regulation of the private sector so that production, education and training are linked.
• Develop a comprehensive social policy as an integral part of transformation and redistribution of resources.
Numsa’s approach to the 2014 elections
In every election since 1994 Numsa has led with its support for the ANC. Our members and leaders have addressed workplaces and community meetings to campaign for the ANC. They have given their time and expertise to bring the ANC back into power. Our union has spent huge financial resources on each campaign.
This time all our regions are saying how unhappy they are with the ANC’s performance. They say we must not put any financial and human resources into supporting any political party in 2014. Other regions are saying that we must give the ANC conditional support.
What is clear, however, is that 20 years next year after the historic 27 April 1994 democratic breakthrough, the working class can no longer continue to vote for its enemy classes, whatever their colour!
Numsa the spear and the shield
Capitalism has changed, it has restructured. There are fewer large companies which manufacture and assemble products and provide all their own services under one roof.
A value chain of separate companies manufacture components and provide services to the final assembly plant.
As a result of these vast changes in the field of production, we find many different industrial unions in one workplace and this makes it hard to unite workers.
On top of this workers want to join Numsa but we cannot accommodate them because of our scope.
Numsa Service Charter
This is a long-standing decision that we are bringing to the special congress. Together with help from members and leaders we have put together a draft. The special congress will improve this draft and it will go back to members early next year for them to have one final look at it and make further improvements before we finally adopt it and print it for every one of our offices.
Cosatu’s congress in 2012 was mandated to lodge a section 77 for a socio-economic strike. It was lodged but in such a way that the process hardly moved. The paralysis in Cosatu has not helped matters.
Numsa’s July 2013 NEC decided that as a union we must file our own section 77 application. But it would be done in a phased fashion and deal with these issues.
Phase 1: beneficiation of all strategic minerals, a ban on the export of scrap metals and rebuilding of foundries, import parity pricing and an export tax on all strategic minerals.
Phase 2: an increase in import tariffs on certain goods to the maximum allowed by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Phase 3: Nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, exchange controls and an end to inflation targeting
Phase 4: de-commercialisation of state owned enterprises and the re-nationalisation of SASOL and Arcelor Mittal South Africa
Phase 5: Labour market issues and low wage employment including the minimum wage.
Phase 6: Nationalisation of the mines and the banks, including the reserve bank
Since then we have lodged a section 77 on the government’s new Employment Tax Incentive Bill (see more details in this Bulletin) because we believe it won’t do anything to reduce youth unemployment.
Whatever decisions we take in this congress, delegates must be mindful of the huge effect that these decisions will have on the future of this country and the working class.
It is time to go to members to seek a fresh mandate
When you read this editorial some of you will be in the Numsa special national congress.