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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by the COSATU President, comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the World Trade Union Congress

5 October 2016

The president of the WFTU, Muhammad Shaaban Azzouz
The entire leadership of WFTU from all the member continents, and countries at all levels
The Leadership of the Alliance present here today
Invited guests

Comrades Delegates from more than 111 countries of the 5 continents

We give our revolutionary greetings to the more than -1200 trade-union participants in this congress. We salute the 340 women trade-unionists who are in attendance today. We note that 31% of the delegates are from the Public Sector and 69% are private employees and this composition is communicating a message that the direction of our fire power in this congress is towards the state but more so against capital.

As COSATU we are pleased that the WFTU leadership took a decision to have this congress held in Africa and South Africa in particular. The WFTU is our home, the ideological and class biasness of the WFTU makes COSATU to be closer to the WFTU. The WFTU was for many decades a home for our forbearers who led SACTU, the predecessor of COSATU. The ideological DNA of COSATU can be traced from the class politics of the WFTU. There is a strong umbilical relationship between the WFTU and COSATU. As COSATU we remain guided by that clarion by the communist manifesto that "Proleterians of all countries unite" , which has been popularised to read "Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!"

This is the context within which COSATU has been ceased with the issue of our affiliation to the WFTU. The COSATU's 11th Congress resolution said that "as part of our revolutionary task of uniting the international trade union movement and create a single world trade union federation, we will as a matter of principle affiliate to the WFTU and also remain as an affiliate to ITUC. We believe this will allow us to use our position in both these international federations to advance towards their merger.

Therefore Congress mandates the first CEC to look at the modalities of implementing this resolution which will include the following:

  1. The constitutional implications to both ITUC and WFTU
  2. To allow for COSATU to properly consult with both ITUC and WFTU.

In the period between now and the first CEC, affiliates which have not properly consulted with membership will be allowed to take membership on board.

In the case where this resolution becomes practically impossible to implement, the CEC will set a process to have the federation properly and systematically reviewing it"

Comrades we welcome you into this great African country, the country of greenery and mineral resources. We welcome you into this beautiful country of geological superlatives, a country of wealth and abundance, a country that is exceptionally well?endowed with mineral which include the largest reserves of the platinum group metals (PGMs), gold, chromite, manganese, vanadium and refractory minerals (alumina?silicates). We are a country of large resources of coal, iron ore, titanium, zirconium, nickel, vermiculite, phosphate and many other minerals. Our reserves for minerals will last for several hundreds of years.

This enormous wealth of our country is not owned and enjoyed by the majority but it remains stolen and trapped in the hands of white monopoly capital and is also owned by foreigners.

In our own country, a country with highest inequality in the world, in the same period of economic crisis we have chief executives who get paid on average 140 times more than the average employee. In other words these chief executives get pain what a worker can never receive in his or her life time no matter how many over time work shifts including moonlighting he or she can take

The 2014 and 2015 figures shows that the CEO of SAB Miller , Alan Clark enjoys a base salary of R24,4 Million and a total salary of R152 million a year. Andrew Mackenzie the CEO of BHP Billiton has a base salary of R24,1 Million and a total salary of R13, 4 Million . Jullian Roberts the CEO of Old Mutual where a majority of workers have invested their monies and get peanuts as returns, it CEO earns a base salary of R19, 6 Million and a total salary of R90,6 Million. A worker will never earn this money even if he or she can invest the entire salary at Old Mutual every month. David Constable the CEO of SASOL earns a base salary of R17, 7 Million, and a total of R52 Million. This is a company which is supposed to be nationalised and have it benefits the needs of the country than to feed the pockets of a few individuals. White Bason the CEO of Shoprite ears a base salary of R 49, 7 million and a total of R50, 1 Million . Johann Rupert the CEO of Richemont earns a base salary of R49, 4 Million and a total of R49, 4 Million. The lowest paid of these CEO is Simon Crutchley of AVI who gets paid R 6 million as his base salary and his total salary is R34, 4 Million.

Despite progress achieved by the ANC led democratic government in which we have unmatched housing delivery by any country in the world, where we have children grants, we have no fee schools, where the majority of household have access to electricity and water but with all this great progress the majority of the people in this country remain trapped under conditions of abject poverty, squalor and unemployment.

We have drawn lessons from the experiences of other countries such as in Latin America covering Brazil, Chile and Venezuela); in our continent Africa covering Botswana, Namibia and Zambia; in Asia covering China and Malaysia; in the OECD countries covering Norway, Finland, Sweden and Australia on how to unleash the economic potential in our country. In each of these countries there are successes and failures from which we can draw lessons , but we remain locked and arrested by the neo liberal policies.

The economy of our country remains locked in the Mineral Energy complex which is essentially a system of accumulation for white monopoly capital. It is the minerals energy complex that shaped where we live, what we do, whether or not we have jobs and what kind of jobs including who must have access to such jobs.

This painful experience of knowing that your country has wealth that coexist with an ocean of poverty and unemployment has become a reality of the working class all over the world , in both the developing and developed countries under conditions of the man made global economic crisis.

For an example a survey conducted by Equilar shows that the CEO pay at 15 of the world's major banks shot up by 17 percent in 2015

The typical chief executive at the banks surveyed received $14.5 million , up from $12.4 million in 2013. The biggest payout went to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whose compensation more than doubled, hitting $27.6 million. Dimon has been at the center of numerous scandals, including lying to investors and government regulators about a multibillion-dollar trading loss in 2012, rigging global interest rates and forging mortgage documents to expedite foreclosures. This is in addition to JPMorgan's role in helping cause the 2008 financial crash by selling toxic mortgage-backed securities.

He is followed by Morgan Stanley CEO James P. Gorman, whose pay increased 60 percent last in 2014 , to $23.1 million. In 2012, Morgan Stanley was fined $5 million for defrauding New York State residents of some $300 million in an electricity price-fixing scheme. That same year, in addition to numerous smaller scandals, the bank paid $6.75 million to resolve charges that it carried out "fictitious sales" of securities.

The next on the list is Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs. In addition to a litany of scandals, including conspiring to manipulate the prices of oil and aluminum, Goldman's criminal activities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis were documented in 2011 by the report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The committee found that Goldman had placed bets against the same toxic mortgage-backed securities it sold to investors.

He is followed by Stuart Gulliver of HSBC, who received $15.6 million, up from $11.6 million the year before. In December 2012, HSBC paid $1.9 billion to US regulators after being caught laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels. This past February, it was revealed that HSBC's Swiss private banking business had functioned for years as an international tax evasion service, helping wealthy clients dodge taxes by handing out untaxed "bricks" of cash at its branches.

If this is even more painful when compared with a 2015 report on global incomes published by the Pew Research Centre, entitled "A Global Middle Class is More Promise than Reality," which classifies 71 percent of the world population as either poor or low-income, subsisting on less than 10 US dollars per day. The report concludes that 84 percent lives on less than 20 US dollars per day, or 7,300 US dollars per year, an income level associated with "deep poverty" in developed countries.

Only seven percent of the world population lives on what the report calls a "high" income level of more than 50 US dollars per day, or 18,000 US dollars per year. The great majority of these people live in Europe or America.

For as long as these conditions in the world persist , there is a case for Socialism. Reliable research shows that the world produces enough food to feed everyone. For the world as a whole, per capita food availability has risen from about 2220 kilo calories per person per day in the early 1960s to 2790 kilo calories per person per day in 2006-08, while developing countries even recorded a leap from 1850 kilo calories per person per day to over 2640 kilo calories per person per day . This growth in food availability in conjunction with improved access to food helped reduce the percentage of chronically undernourished people in developing countries from 34 percent in the mid 1970s to just 15 percent three decades later. The principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase or land to grow enough food. These are the resources which are locked in the hands of a few which have accumulated enough money through exploiting the working people and plundering our country's natural resources. This congress must confront this matter and provide answers as to how can we free humanity from poverty and hunger to access the resources which are in the hands of a few.

Comrades , this Congress is taking place at a time when the deepening economic crisis has forced national economies to be more inward looking and protective of their local markets. This has come with the emergence of right wing political parties whose central programmes include anti - immigrants laws . This period also set the epicentres of capitalism against each other as seen with the recent political rapture in the European Union in which Britain took a decision to dismember itself from the European Union leading to economic shocks all over the world.

In fact, a key factor in the Brexit crisis is the reality that masses of voters in Britain, as across Europe, have concluded that the EU is a socially regressive institution hostile to their interests. It is a tool of European capitalism; it is, moreover, irrevocably torn by the competing interests of European states. As the working people we have a responsibility to choose whether we follow the logic of capitalism of being inward looking or we force the opening up of our country's economies for the benefit of humanity.

We have to confront the practical implication of the deepening economic crisis both in the epicentres of capitalism and in developing countries.

According to the ILO - World Employment Social Outlook trends for 2016 report titled " transforming Jobs to end Poverty " shows in 2015, the number of unemployed people reached 197.1 million - approaching 1 million more than in the previous year and over 27 million higher than pre-crisis levels. This increase in the number of jobseekers in 2015 occurred mainly in emerging and developing countries.

The report also shows that vulnerable employment accounts for 1.5 billion people, or over 46 per cent of total employment. In both Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, over 70 per cent of workers are in vulnerable employment. As well as having limited access to contributory social protection schemes, workers in vulnerable employment suffer from low productivity and low and highly volatile earnings. There are also significant gender gaps in job quality. Women face a 25 to 35 per cent higher risk of being in vulnerable employment than men in certain countries in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States.

The report says that based on growth projections, emerging economies are expected to see an increase in unemployment of 2.4 million in 2016 and that global unemployment is expected to rise by a further 1.1 million in 2017.

The report also shows that in emerging economies, the size of the middle class (with daily consumption levels ranging between US$5 and US$13, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms) rose from 36 per cent of the total population in 2011 to just under 40 per cent in 2015.

In the coming years, the present trend of an increase in the size of the middle class is projected to slow or even end. Among developing economies, the share of the middle class is expected to continue to increase, but more slowly than in recent years. This report points to renewed risks of social unrest associated with slower growth in emerging and developing economies. In these countries, slower growth and disappointing access to middle class living standards may fuel social discontent.

The improvement in the labour market situation in developed economies is limited and uneven, and in some countries the middle class has been shrinking, according to various measures. Income inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has risen significantly in most advanced G20 countries. Since the start of the global crisis, top incomes have continued to increase while the poorest 40 per cent of households have tended to fall behind, stalling efforts to further reduce working poverty

This reality of deepening economic conditions in the epicentres of capitalism depicted in the McKinsey Global Institute report which is based on a detailed study of six countries: the United States, Sweden, the UK, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, then projected the results over 25 countries titled "Poorer than their Parents: Flat or Falling Incomes in Advanced Economies, it shows that, a significant majority of the population in 25 of the world's most advanced countries was experiencing declining or stagnating incomes between 2005 and 2014

An estimated 540 million to 580 million people, 65 to 70 percent of the population of those countries, had real incomes that were flat or fell during this period. These countries, whose total population is 800 million, account for half of the world's economic output. In contrast, during the period between 1993 and 2005, the study estimates that only 2 percent of the population in the same countries experienced similar conditions.

The study points out that the sharp decline in wage and salary income was only partly offset by government transfer payments, with the result that some 20 percent of the population in the countries studied saw an actual decline in real income during the decade ending in 2014. The mechanisms varied from country to country, from the Swedish welfare state spending to the extended unemployment benefits and food stamps provided in the United States, although these have largely expired.

The study warns that declining economic growth makes the continuation of such transfer payments increasingly problematic. This is a case being advanced by institutions of capitalism calling for a change in policies which benefits the working class.

Throughout this process the ruling class has pushed countries to adopt economic programmes aimed at taking away the retirement, benefits, wages, and health care that working people rely on to survive.

Another recent report by the by the Global Slavery Index estimates that some 45.8 million people today, across 167 countries, are living under some form of modern day slavery.

All these reports show the extent of the impact of the deepening economic and political crisis which have been imposed by capitalism in the world. But at the same time they are a reflection of the highest proportions of growing desperation in the ranks of the working class.

As this is happening, capital continues to manoeuvre its way out of the crisis by shifting its burden to the working class whilst at the same time opening more policy and political space to deepen their accumulation agenda. In this regard the Pew report shows that amid falling incomes in the United States and continued mass poverty in the rest of the world, the wealth of the global financial oligarchy has continued to soar. In 2014 the wealth of the world's billionaires hit $7 trillion, having more than doubled in the time covered in the Pew report. The astronomical enrichment of this social layer is inseparable from the impoverishment of the world's workers.

The communist manifesto was to correct when it asserted that "What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable"

Another mechanism through which capital was shifting the burden of the economic crisis to the working class has been the skyrocketing of rent and housing costs in most major cities cutting deeply into workers' standard of living .

This has raised concerns about the possibility of new global housing bubble. Driving the soaring cost of rent is a global financial system that is being pumped full of cheap credit by banks at the expense of workers around the world.

More importantly and critical is that capital has been successful not only to shift the burden of the crisis to the working class but it has also been successful to shift the blame of ideological and economic failures of capitalism to nation states leaving national governments high and dry in particular those in developing countries who were pursuing a developmental agenda to explain these failures to the despondent and angry masses.

During this period capital has shown that the formal rules of bourgeois democracy are only respected by the dominant classes so long as these rules serve their interests. In moments of crisis the bourgeoisie pulls off its mask and manipulates those rules without the least qualms, in favour of their objectives.

The manoeuvres and pressure put by capital have co-opted some of the left parties into diluting or departing from their development agenda and at worst turned against the working class

This phenomenon has manifested in Greece where the overwhelming results of a referendum against the austerity measures was openly ignored by the same left party Syriza which won an election on a platform of anti austerity measures and led people on a no vote against austerity measures but later acted against the victory of the working class and instead imposed austerity policies against the working class.

In France what was understood to be a left government ascending to power has in reality become a nightmare for the working people. The offensive against the workers has seen France imposing changes in the labour laws making it easier for management to reduce pay, lay off workers and launching an attack on collective bargaining, especially at national sectoral levels where bargaining formerly carried out across industries will increasingly be decentralised to the individual company.

Capital has also not hesitated to use the instability created by the crisis in developing countries to impose further neo liberal solutions thus pushing these countries into an even deeper crisis. This is amongst the conditions which have allowed for the rise of the right wing . This is also the context in which we have seen the intensification of regime change programmes in most of the country's where popular democratic left governments are in power. Latin America has become the most recent target of this agenda. In Latin America the impact of the economic crisis has created possibilities for the right wing to develop a platform for militant actions directed at the ruling left parties.

For an example, in Venezuela where the US needs to control 300 billion barrels of oil in order to guarantee its long-term survival, there are attempts to remove the popular democratic government

The Imperialist forces have realized that without a subservient government in power, access to the 300 billion barrels was not possible. The USA has found reasons to impose an economic blockade against Venezuela, especially in the scientific and technology sector. Countries and companies are forbidden from selling high technologies to Venezuela.

The Latin American countries created their own uniting platforms of development such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). In the process Latin America has become more integrated, sovereign, independent and powerful than ever before.

The region has forged relations with China, Russia, Iran and other sovereign states with strong markets and technological know-how. Development has excelled and with few exceptions, Latin American economies are on the rise. All this has been achieved without the United States.

In response, Washington heightened her interference in the region, supporting coups and attempted coups against democratically-elected presidents in Venezuela, Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras, Ecuador and Paraguay, increasing its military presence in the hemisphere and intensifying subversive efforts to undermine Latin American governments through multimillion-dollar funding of opposition movements

The current developments both in Venezuela and Brazil must be understood in this context and these developments resemble many similarities as in South Africa.

The grand plan has similar patterns everywhere. These include a platform for mobilisation in which student and youth movements are mobilised under a new and so called emerging leaders.

These revolutions or uprisings occur in a nation with strategic, natural resources: gas, oil, military bases and geopolitical interests. They also always take place in countries with socialist-leaning, anti-imperialist governments.

The platform for mobilising towards an uprising and destabilisation is always planned around an electoral campaign and process, to raise tensions and questions of potential fraud, and to discredit the elections in the case of a loss
for the opposition, which is generally the case.

The strategy includes disorganizing the pillars of State power, neutralizing security forces and creating a sensation of chaos and instability.

It is a properly considered and well funded programme whose strategy includes winning the security forces, public officials and the public in general, with a psychological warfare component and a street presence that give the impression of a nation on the verge of popular insurrection.

In each case the working class is led instigated and galvanized into action under the leadership of the middle and upper class that provide funding and operate in alliance with the media. Hopes are raised and emotions whipped for a struggle to achieve a new political order and the outcome is always worse for the working class characterized by more corruption and more poverty and unemployment with the gains of the working people being rolled back.

The despondency caused by the pressures of the economic crisis are used to create a fertile ground for the right wing to target the middle class as a ground for mobilisation to intensify their regime change agenda against popular governments .

There's always a logo, a colour, a marketing strategy. In Serbia, the group OTPOR, which led the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, hit the streets with t-shirts, posters and flags boasting a fist in black and white, their symbol of resistance. In Ukraine, the logo remained the same, but the colour changed to orange. In Georgia, it was a rose-colored fist, and in Venezuela, instead of the closed fist, the hands are open, in black and white, to add a little variety.

This always occurs in a nation with strategic, natural resources: gas, oil, military bases and geopolitical interests. And they also always take place in countries with socialist-leaning, anti-imperialist governments. The movements promoted by US agencies in those countries are generally anti-communist, anti-socialist, pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist.

Protests and destabilization actions are always planned around an electoral campaign and process, to raise tensions and questions of potential fraud, and to discredit the elections in the case of a loss for the opposition, which is generally the case. The same agencies are always present, funding, training and advising: USAID, NED, IRI, NDI, Freedom House, AEI and ICNC. The latter two pride themselves on the expert training and capacitation of youth movements to encourage "non violent" change.

Finance Capital through institutions such as banks , and rating agencies are central tools in conditions where the battles has assumed a non violent character or where the conditions have only allowed low intensity uprisings. For an example in Brazil, after the removal of comrade Dilma Rousef, IMF said it forecast positive growth for Brazil in 2017.

The global financial services firm UBS said that Brazil seemed to be moving in the right direction. It openly said in a recent report that the change in political leadership contributed to the strengthening of the Brazil's currency; it reiterated the IMF's view that 2017 could mark a turnaround for the Brazilian economy. The Global credit ratings firm Moody's said strengthened confidence in the business environment in Brazil contributed to a better outlook for 2017. In South Africa, when the right wing DA won in three strategic metros, the rand improved. The message is clear, when the popular government is removed, the economy improves accordingly!

It is against this reality that as COSATU we openly support the struggles by the students on their demands for free education but we are very clear that we will not allow these genuine struggles to be hijacked by the forces who want to use it as a platform to pursue the regime change agenda. In our view, the struggle for free education is the struggle for radical economic transformation, it is the struggle and a call for a change of economic policy in our country away from the neo liberal policy paradigm, it is the struggle and a call for the transfer of wealth from white monopoly to the people as a whole as articulated in the economic clauses of the freedom charter.

It is a struggle whose central demand is that the rich must come forward and take responsibility for the funding of free education. Now is the time for our government to be decisive and introduce policy measures that will effect radical economic transformation which in our view is a pre-requisite towards the achievement of Free Education for student from the working class and the poor background. In this context we demand the introduction of redistributive tax interventions through on amongst others the introduction of progressive tax system, which will include an introduction of a tax category of the super rich. In this context the South African Business must be forced through legislation to fund free education.

Government must create a tax legislation which will make this possible. It is in this context that we will be demanding that government should introduce policy measures that will give it more capacity to intervene and provide funding for free education for the children coming from the working class background which include the missing middle. This should including prioritising funding poor institutions. In this regard we demand that government must nationalise strategic sectors of the economy such as: a) banking, b) petrochemicals, c) forestry, d) cement, e) metals fabrication (especially steel), f) construction (to address infrastructure backlogs), g) pharmaceuticals, h) machinery and equipment i) telecommunications and j) mining industries. Strategic nationalisation will help address three things a) stimulate economic growth, b) to determine the strategic direction of the economy and c) to enlarge available resources.

Comrades, the message we are trying to communicate is that the material conditions of the working class all over the world allows for the left forces to seize the strategic initiative and lead the working class struggles. But we are in disarray, we are too fragmented and as a result the right wing has seized the opportunity and has bought the working class into their agenda whose long term interest is against the working class.

The fundamental question which this congress must answer is how we can ensure that we build a united trade union movement which can work and strengthen progressive Marxist - Leninist political organisations to lead an intensified struggle for socialism.