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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Remarks by COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi at the Launch of the SACP's Red October Recruitment Drive

21 September 1999

General Secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande
Comrades and friends

I am a strong believer in the approach that says an organisation derives its respect and credibility from the organisational strength of its membership. Without a strong and vibrant organisation there can be no political and social progress.

When COSATU, the SACP or the ANC is weakened, democracy itself will be weakened; the National Democratic Revolution will be under threat and the dreams of millions for a better life will not be realised.

This approach shows the importance of this occasion, the launch of the Red October of the SACP and the recruitment drive of COSATU. I am therefore deeply honoured by the invitation to address this very important occasion, which gives practical expression to COSATU's 6th National Congress resolution on strengthening the SACP as the vanguard of the workers and the working people as the whole.

Chairperson, the current conjuncture of our NDR and transition demands that we do all in our power to strengthen our formations so that we can continually reposition ourselves to play a meaningful role in the unfolding transformation struggle. This is the challenge every formation faces as we move towards the next millennium.

The current period remains dominated by unelected institutions. It is not only cruel and uncaring, but also brutal and merciless. The growing gap between the rich and the poor - within nations and between nations, the increasing attacks on the quality of jobs through casualisation and sweatshops, mounting poverty and disease are hallmarks of this monster called globalisation. As workers and the poor the face we know of globalisation is the blood-streaked one I have painted.

The forces that lie behind current globalisation and its ideology of neo-liberalism are extremely powerful. The challenge this presents to the international working class movement is enormous. A strong COSATU and SACP in South Africa, with the current weaknesses in the international socialist movements and the progressive trade union movement, will scarcely give us the leverage we need to tilt the balance of forces in favour of the poor and the working class, either here at home or in the world.

But social movements around the world, united behind a progressive agenda, supported by the progressive labour movement and led by the growing resurgence of socialist movements and ideology, are beginning to make a difference. Witness the campaign that halted, even if only temporarily, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which sought to rob nations of the ability to set policy limits and put social brakes on runaway free marketeering. Witness at home the Jubilee 2000 campaign against the massive third world debt imposed by the depradations of capital through it agencies the World Bank, the WTO, the IMF. Witness the intervention of trade unions such as ACTU to halt the genocide in East Timor, while the United Nations and the so-called democratic nations dithered for the second time in 25 years.

These may be small victories, but they rest on our ability to unite and organise behind a progressive agenda. This launch is therefore not some ritual for the sake of it. It must be understood in the context of challenges.

COSATU cadres should at all times have this broader agenda when addressing the important question of strengthening COSATU. To us this is the big picture and not the narrow Self-inflicted constrains others are referring when they seek workers supports for their constraining policies. An official who forgets this big picture when organising workers is not a good organiser. A shop steward and organiser who does not take into account our dreams for a socialist future when doing organisational work is not a good shop steward. The battle cry should be organise with a purpose! Do not just get workers into COSATU but develop soldiers for a socialist future! Organise to deepen the NDR! Educate working people so that they can rally behind the theme that says "each one according to his needs, each one according to his ability. It can just be recruitment for the sake of recruitment, it can not be education for the sake of education organise and educate for a purpose!

On behalf of COSATU I pledge our unwavering support to the SACP's recruitment drive in the month of October 1999. COSATU affiliates are themselves moving into a COSATU coordinated recruitment drive in the month of October. As part of this campaign we will be establishing SACP units in industrial areas where we already have an organisational presence. We look forward to interacting with the SACP and the ANC to give effect to our congress resolution.

Most of our affiliates have released the necessary resources so that we can improve the record established in April 1998 of recruiting 50 000 workers into our affiliates in a single month. We know that the current wave of job losses makes this challenge even more difficult. We are however, determined to do better than before.

The lessons of the last year's drive must help us plan the campaign better. In particular we must improve coordination between the command centers that we have established and various recruitment units operating on the ground. COSATU is the only show in town for South African workers when it comes to progressive, transformative trade unionism.

I call on all workers: if you want a trade union capable not only of raising your wages and improving your working conditions; if you want a trade union that will seek to deliver your aspirations in an uncompromising fashion; if you want a trade union that unites workers irrespective of political persuasion, sex or creed - then join a COSATU-affiliated union.

Equally I call on all workers who want a South Africa free from exploitation of workers by profit-crazy capitalists, if you want to bank your future into a party that want the only existence the state to be based on the interest of the working class, if you want a future free from poverty, homelessness, diseases, if you want a future where your children and grand children shall live in a society based on solidarity and caring - join the SACP and help establish its structures near each and every workplace.

Equally I call on workers who want to deepen the gains of the NDR and establishment of the free, nonracial, nonsexist and democratic South Africa to join the ANC and participate in its branch structures. The challenge is no longer a narrow participation of workers, but the call must extend to workers taking up leadership positions in the ANC and SACP.

Comrades, we call on all workers, on each and every socialist: go forth and multiply! Mobilise and organise!