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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Address by Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali, COSATU General Secretary to the SACP 14th National Congress

Comrade General Secretary and
Chairperson of the SACP
Members of the Central Committee
Congress delegates
Comrades and friends

We are here to deliver a message of solidarity to the SACP that is not just our Alliance partner by our own organisation as the working people. This message will be strengthened and solidified by our continued participation in this congress as COSATU worker leaders and also by the general membership that is here as delegates. In summary this is our own congress because the SACP is our own vanguard.

This 14th National Congress of the SACP takes place against the backdrop of a global capitalist crisis that started in 2008 and has persisted for almost a decade now; it is obviously clear that the system of capitalism is struggling to reinvent itself. Unemployment is up, wages are severely depressed, and the inequality has grown.

South Africa is grappling with the failure of the neoliberal solution of false gradualism that was adopted in the mid nineties. We expect the party to help us in this congress to start formulate and clearly define at least a socialist theory of an alternative world economy to challenge the free market system.

The SACP's role at this stage of our revolution therefore cannot be overstated because we need its scientific social analysis and ideological clarity and grounding, to help us map a way forward and give answers to the biggest questions facing our revolution.

This congress also takes place amidst the emergence of a parasitic bourgeoisie patronage network that seeks to entrench itself within key sectors of the state and particularly within strategic state-owned corporations.

We expect the party to come out with clear proposals on how to help ensure that our democratic state is firstly defended and then assisted and reoriented towards driving an inclusive and sustainable growth path.

As the organised component of the working class, we are hoping that this Congress will help us to analyse our political environment in order to develop proper responses to all challenges facing the revolution in particular the progressive forces.

Given the offensive against the working class, which goes with the marginalisation of COSATU and SACP in the Alliance, we need to clarify ourselves as to who are the friends and who are the foes of the working class within the movement. We must use this congress to provide better clarity as to what is the way-forward for the working class. The establishment of a commission by the SACP Special Congress on the question of state power and the call for the reconfiguration of the Alliance by the 12th COSATU Congress are uppermost in people's minds, as we continue with debates in this congress.

But these questions are both not new, we heard a lot about them at the height of the domination of the '96 Class Project.

In dealing with both these questions, we cannot afford to be both emotional and metaphysical in our approach. Firstly, we need to admit that the dysfunctionality of the Alliance and the marginalisation of the COSATU and SACP are not accidental but they reflect the obvious weaknesses in the organisational power of the working class. The question that needs to be answered is why we have failed to build working class hegemony inside the movement.

We cannot just pretend that the solution to our frustrations with the Alliance and the ANC is to give workers and the working class a new address and fail to correctly diagnose the reasons that have led us to be where we are as the working class. But workers need a united and coherent SACP, whether you decide to contest state power or not.

The reconfiguration of the Alliance will not be declared in public forums but will happen only if the SACP and COSATU can manage to build working class hegemony.

One of the achievements of our national democratic revolution (NDR) has been its ability to mobilise and unite our people, particularly the black majority around the project of non-racialism and non-sexism, and more precisely around the project of nation-building. This achievement was secured first and foremost in uniting our broader movement, the ANC itself, the Alliance and the broader range of popular formations. This is an important achievement precisely because at the heart of their strategy of maintain state power and class power, the colonial and apartheid rulers relied on "divide and rule" strategy to create and maintain tribal and racial divisions to deny us our common identity as South Africans. We must remain true to our commitment to non -racialism and non-sexism comrades.

Our revolution is now faced with growing threats that undermines our ability to not only unite but to also mobilise the black majority.

Comrades, in this congress, we must fight the temptation to succumb to cult of personality debates, the Alliance must properly conceptualise the fact that among others the major challenge that we face is the non-implementation of policies and decisions.

It is the ANC itself that said that in prima facie cases, incumbents must step down from their positions of leadership until their matter is finalised and this is not happening. We all have a collective responsibility of convincing the people that the ANC is serious about fighting corruption otherwise; we shall continue to experience electoral apathy and ultimately electoral defeat.

Comrades, there are those who have accused the federation of contesting the content of the radical second phase on personalities and not on its class content. This is simply not true!

We have come out openly on our support for Cde Cyril Ramaphosa because we believe that the orientation of the leadership collective that would emerge from the 54th Conference of the ANC would have a bearing on the content of the second phase.

A couple of weeks ago, we concluded a very successful 5th Central Committee. The CC focused on socio- economic issues as well as our approach to the 54th Conference of the ANC Its conclusion places a responsibility on the entire democratic movement to lead the revolution in a decisive manner. This is particularly so since political and economic power remains in the hands of the few. Those who amassed the country's wealth through exploitation of our people, starvation wages, cheap labour system, denial of trade union rights, remain opposed to social transformation, which will benefit the majority in our country.

In the face of all this, including the unprecedented offensive by capitalist ideologues against the working class, we need the SACP to lead a counter-ideological offensive to help steer the revolution in the right direction.

We also expect the party to help us analyze the approach and character of the bourgeois democratic institutions that are not serving the working class, but are defending the interests of the rich and powerful like the Reserve Bank.

Comrade chairperson, as you meet here today, workers in almost all sectors of the economy are facing retrenchments, through restructuring of industries, outsourcing and for many reasons .The relaxation of exchange controls permits individuals, corporations, and institutional investors to take an increasing portion of their investments offshore at a time when more capital is needed in our country.

We are happy that most social partners have at long last recognised that we need a Job Summit that we have been calling for as COSATU. We expect the SACP to discuss and put forward proposals to be taken to the Jobs Summit.

We need a Jobs Plan as a country and this Jobs Summit should help us discuss and find solutions on job creation; how to support the unemployed; stem the tide of retrenchments and in the process formalise the informal sector.

Comrades the ANC government has done a lot of work over the last twenty five years, we need to acknowledge that. The situation of our people is better that it was under the apartheid but the struggle was not about having just a government taking care of the people but it was about giving people their country back including its economy. What we are currently facing is the reality that the country and its economy still do not belong to the people.

The conditions of life of the majority are still very much desperate. It is this which explains the desperation, anger and frustration of the majority of the South African working class, who are largely Black and African
COSATU has consistently warned that the poverty, unemployment and inequalities affecting millions of South African workers are a ticking time bomb!

The marginalisation of the working class in the economy has also been evidenced by flexible labour market in the form of actualisation, outsourcing and the use of labour brokers, the commodification of basic needs and the suppression of workers' wages below productivity gains.

In our view; to ultimately address the ongoing crisis of unemployment, current economic power relationships must be challenged and transformed; the economy must be developed to reach and sustain full employment.

The federation has been consistently vocal in fighting the tendency from some within the ANC to view economic transformation through the prism of de-racialisation of' capitalism and also for narrow personal accumulation. We have consistently argued that radical economic transformation should not only mean the integration of blacks into the economic structures of ownership, while leaving these structures unchanged. We shall continue to push back against this integrationist strategy that does not tamper with the capitalist logic of accumulation; and that politically attempts to define the black bourgeoisie as a motive force of the revolution instead of the working class. The policies coming out of the ANC Policy Conference will receive the usual treatment from COSATU. We will support those that favour the workers and the working class and fiercely oppose those that are about creating the black elite to replace the white elite.

We also expect the party to reflect on the offensive that is still directed at the federation, because COSATU is under attack from all sides. Some of our industrial unions have internal problems but there is also a concerted effort to liquidate them by employers. We need the party to work with us to stem the tide of attacks that is directed at our industrial unions.

COSATU is looking forward to working with the party to intensify our joint political, ideological and mass campaigning work after the congress. Indeed, in the current circumstances, the two working class formations within the ANC-led alliance have particular responsibilities. These two organisations should work together on many Socio Economic campaigns that were adopted by the COSATU Central Committee and that will be hopefully supported by this congress. These include the following:

  • Job losses and Independent Power Producers (IPPs)
  • Targeting of Casual workers and Labour Brokers
  • State Capture and Corruption
  • Campaign against E-Tolls
  • National Health Insurance
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Climate Change
  • Recruitment of farm workers and Domestic workers
  • We shall also campaign for the transformation of Treasury including Wealth Tax.

The party should also work with us to fight for the review of the NDP Anti Labour Chapters.

The SACP has an opportunity to make this a watershed congress, but whatever decisions that gets taken here they should provide clarity on the SACP'S agenda for socialism, its role in the current political situation particularly in ensuring that the NDR reflect the aspiration of the working class.

We wish you a successful and productive congress.