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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Central Exec  |  COSATU Speeches

Closing Remarks by COSATU President, Willie Madisha, at the COSATU Central Committee

20 September 2007

Comrades we have come to the end of our federation`s successful 4th Central Committee, second in importance only to our 9th Congress, which was equally successful, despite what the soothsayers of doom had predicted!

Please allow me to thank you on behalf of the Office Bearers and the Central Executive Committee for implementing so well the mandate of that historic Congress. The 1.8 million members out there are proud of you al. You have again, as always, demonstrated high levels of discipline, commitment and unmatched insight into the plight of the working class.

During your deliberations in commissions you demonstrated high levels of preparedness. You took away your emotions and dealt with issues in a cool-headed fashion. That is the discipline required of revolutionaries during these trying moments.

Thanks to our alliance Partners - the ANC, SACP, ANCYL, YCL, and COSAS - for demonstrating discipline. You comrades did not attend this meeting as celebrities but as activists in your own right. You did not just make speeches and leave, but remained and made your contributions and engaged with all of us like true revolutionaries. We thank you comrades for maintaining this tradition of frank and open engagement.

We thank you for knowing that the high political office some of you currently hold in government and elsewhere in the state does not make you different from all us; it is just a deployment from which you may be recalled by the masses.

We also would like to thank the support staff for providing your services with so much excellence and dedication, and without counting the cost. You work very hard, and we the politicians claim the victories.

One of the leaders in the Russian Revolution said `the bourgeoisie may win the power in a revolution not because it is revolutionary, but because it is bourgeois. It has in its possession property, education, the press, a network of strategic positions, and a hierarchy of institutions. Quite otherwise with the proletariat. Deprived in the nature of things of all social advantages, (the) proletariat can count only on its numbers, its solidarity, its cadres, its official staff.`

This meeting has made this point very clear. What resonates in each and every resolution is the central role of the masses in taking forward and defending the resolutions taken here, in our 9th Congress, in the 12th Congress of the SACP, in the 2005 NGC of the ANC and the Policy Conferences of the ANC.

This Central Committee has instructed all of us to provide leadership during these trying moments of our struggle. You have said the current challenges require `a correct general leadership of the masses, a flexible orientation in changing conditions, a thought-out plan of attack, cautiousness in technical preparation, and a daring blow`.

Through your proposal for a Pact you have made a statement that `the proletariat can become imbued with the confidence necessary for a revolution only if a clear prospect opens before it, only if it has had an opportunity to test out in action a correlation of forces which is changing to its advantage, only if it feels above it a far-sighted, firm and confident leadership.`

Through your resolutions comrades you have made a declaration that you will provide that leadership which will inspire confidence and provide ideological clarity to the masses of our people during these confusing moments in our struggle.

When you were discussing the relationship between the NDR and Socialism you made the point that knowledge on these important matters cannot be decreed. You said more than common sense was needed to cut through the myth of ideological misinformation.

You have said the working class enters into debates not for the sake of it but to expose the fact that `the existing social structure has become incapable of solving the urgent problems of development of our people and that there were other alternatives which have been proven successful elsewhere in the world`.

We are now going back to the factories, mines, state institutions, petrol stations, shopping chains, domestic work, and in other instances humiliating sweatshop conditions.

When we gathered here on the first day, we did so armed with clear instructions from those who sent us here to deliver their mandates, to debate and emerge with a clear path to advance their political and socio-economic objectives.

When they gather from tomorrow, their workplaces, in branches and locals, at regional, provincial or even at national level of our affiliates, our members will expect positive report backs from this, their annual parliament.

More so than ever before, workers will meet with high expectations of guidance in the present milieu of worker militancy and consciousness, born out of demands for quality jobs and better conditions.

As workers gather tomorrow and in days to follow, they will ask questions related to the mandates they sent us here with. They will, as their first question, ask us how we, as their representatives at this Central Committee, resolved to advance their struggles against their common enemy, exploitative capital.

To that question we will respond by saying that as this CC we agreed that we must build a strong organisation which we will combine with strong revolutionary theory. We will say that we have resolved that the combination of these two will not only urgently deal with our common enemy but will also pave the way to our achievement of socialism.

We will, as justification of our resolution, quote to them their own teacher, Lenin, who said that "In his struggle for power, the proletarian can, and inevitably will, become an invincible force only through ideological unification on the principles of Marxism, being reinforced by the material unity of organisation, which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class."

We will further say to those who sent us here to participate in this, our Fourth Central Committee, that we are faced with common challenges, be it with private or public capital on a daily basis, and only a strong organisation can advance their common ideals.

Some of these workers will look at us with questioning faces and ask how did the CC resolve on how a strong organisation can be built, given that they do not have any strong financial base like that held in abundance by their common enemy.

To that question we will respond by saying that two things must obtain.

The first will be for them to see every penny, every cent, donated by those who suffer from rockfalls and disfigured bodies as a result of cuts by heavy machinery, those who contribute to provident funds but get killed by wild animals before they enjoy all the benefits, and those who suffer extra workloads as they are forced to take over from their colleagues who either retire or move out of work through natural attrition.

We will say to them that they must ensure that all pennies and cents must be used properly by shop stewards, and in instances where the same is contributed by us to our Alliance partners, there must be the highest degree of accountability.

We will say to them that the second thing they must do if they wish to be true to their ideal of socialism is not to only shout about socialism as their future, but also to preach socialist morality and sustain it.

We will and must say to the workers that organising must not only end in factories, but must be taken to the households where we find some of the most exploited members of the working class, the domestic workers. Those are people who in many instances are employed in terrible working conditions, conditions which have not changed even after the days of Mrs Elizabeth Motaung, who in 1988 was dismissed by her employer after working for 40 years as a domestic worker, earning R30 a month and with no leave, given only the back room and food.

Some of these workers are employed by those of us who call ourselves the most progressive workers, who stand up in conferences and say `Viva the emancipation of domestic workers!` And yet we practice the antithesis.

It would also be very wrong for us not send a message of solidarity to our comrades in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade unions, who, while we have been meeting here, yesterday and today, been waging a general strike. We congratulate them and pay tribute to their heroism as they fight against the appalling economic catastrophe their members face and the brutal repression meted out by the regime.

We must also say to the shop stewards, who are also leaders in the ANC and the SACP that for them to be good leaders they must know that they must work hard to unite the Alliance and refuse the temptation to attack the others just to get the loudest applause.

We must remind the shop stewards of the letter sent out in 1988 by the Underground Group of the SACP, which called on workers to organise and unite, and to join the SACP, ANC and MK for freedom and socialism.

We declare for all to know that as we move out of this Central Committee, we are clear in our minds that we will all work together to strengthen the SACP, the only hope of our people which has never deserted the working class and poor. More than ever before we need the leadership of the South African Communist Party.

As we adjourn this meeting, to prepare for the ANC 52nd Conference it is clear task in our minds that the majority must not only be counted, but must be won over! As we work with our people, as we interface with the masses, paramount in our minds will be the unity of our people in all our formations. We will spare none of our energies to build the people`s movement, the ANC. We will do everything to ensure that preparations for the 52nd ANC Conference do not tear this glorious movement of the people apart.

As we adjourn this meeting it has become clear to our minds that unity will be a prerequisite to the success of all these resolutions taken here today.

Therefore comrades, we the NOBs in whom you have invested your trust and confidence to lead this organisation of the workers, we here today commit ourselves to do everything and to remove every obstacle to achieve unity among ourselves and within the entire federation and the forces of the left in our country.

And we call on the members of the CC to build this glorious movement of Elijah Barayi.