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National Congress | Reports
Secretariat Report to the 11th COSATU National Congress
Part I: Political Overview
This Political Report takes stock of political developments since the last National Congress in September 2009.
It identifies key political challenges facing the working class. It also assesses developments in relation to the three key mandates of the 2009 COSATU Congress:
- political transformation; particularly in relation to the Alliance, governance, and advancing a working class political agenda;
- building of working class consciousness and ideological cohesion; and
- building the organisational engines of COSATU and the working class.
Franz Fanon said "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it". This is the task we have today as revolutionaries, to discover our mission - fulfil it or betray it.
This is our moment - this is our burden - and this is our challenge.
This report seeks to get us out of our comfort zones by forcefully presenting our situation to the worker leadership.
The report in its totality presents an argument that says we must change by adopting a new mindset or simply perish!..
We must recover the very purpose of why COSATU was formed 27 years ago!
COSATU has won many friends and admirers- some are genuine & want the best for the worker`s movement. Others are opportunists wanting to influence us for their narrow interests.
Others are demagogues. Former SACP General Secretary, Cde Charles Nqakula put it clearly: "Demagogy is an attempt to stir up popular emotions in order to secure a bigger slice of the action for an elite." He went on to say, "... to voice the concerns of the poorest of the poor is not demagogy. To help marginalised communities organise themselves for transformation is not demagogy. To speak the truth, however awkward or unwelcome, is not demagogy. Demagogy is to lie to the people about what is possible and what is not. Demagogy is to foster dependency through patronage. Demagogy refuses collective responsibility and collective discipline. Sometimes demagogy masquerades as left militancy, but it is always, through and through, reactionary."
COSATU`s Political Strategy
The 2015 Plan states that the overall thrust of our political strategy is to "assert working class hegemony of society to counteract the entrenched power of capital. To that end, we seek to combine state and social power in a way that consistently tilts the balance of power in favour of the working class. Freedom must bring tangible and real benefits to the working class"
Over the last few years, COSATU has played an increasingly powerful role in shaping the politics of the country. Through its activities, mobilisation and strategic focus, it has assumed the role of leader of progressive civil society. Previously marginalised by those in power, now few key policies or national issues affecting workers are able to move forward without the Federations input. The organisations political impact is far reaching, both inside and outside the state.
The Political Environment
But strategic political advances by COSATU take place in a political environment which is far from ideal:
Heightened contestation for the soul of the movement, and control of the state, continues between progressive forces, on the one side, and remnants of the 1996 class project, and the new predator elite, on the other. This contestation takes place at all levels of the state and movement.
This contestation results in constant political zigzagging between different positions, in the movement and state, leading to instability and conflict, instead of a coherent political project. This is worsened by declining political morality and ideological cohesion, and growing nepotism, corruption, and abuse of the movement for selfish accumulation by people in positions of power.
Post-Polokwane advances in consolidating the Alliance, are constantly undermined. The Alliance lurches between good coordination and unity, to dysfunctionality; and only sees the need to meet when there is a crisis
While important interventions have been made in the movement and the state in an attempt to respond to these developments, lack of consistency by the political leadership in arresting this situation has meant that we perpetually lurch from temporary advances to political crisis. Because leadership structures are so compromised by these negative features, and contestation by different forces, they appear unable to forge a principled and coherent platform to place our politics on a different trajectory. At best, political leadership are confined to managing the effects of this situation. At worst, the leadership continues to act to reproduce these negative features.
So COSATU`s political strategy, as set out in our 2015 plan, is at a crossroads: on the one hand, we have shown that a multi-pronged political strategy of engagement on many fronts is effective in ensuring not only that organised workers have a coherent voice in society, but also that they play a key leadership role.
At the same time, we continue to confront the severe limitations placed on this strategy by an untransformed state; and an ANC, and Alliance which appears unable, for reasons summarised above, to move the country forward. We therefore need to consider whether our current strategy is adequate, and what more, or different, can be done, to move the country onto a new political path.
Assessing the 2015 Plan
It is nearly 10 years since COSATU adopted its landmark 2015 Plan at the 2003 Congress. It is therefore a good moment to stand back, reflect on progress made in implementing the Plan, honestly assess advances and setbacks, and take the necessary corrective steps to ensure more rapid advance by the time we report to the 2015 Congress.
The period since the 2015 Plan was adopted, has seen many achievements which the more than 2 million workers organised under COSATU can rightly be proud of. Some highlights of COSATU`s achievements in the areas identified in the 2015 Plan include:
A growth in COSATU membership of over 422 000 members, or 25% over 9 years. This makes COSATU one of the fastest growing trade union Federations in the world. But this is short of the target we set ourselves.
COSATU remains a vibrant, militant, democratic trade union movement, despite a number of challenges to this organisational culture, and has successfully mobilised its members, together with millions of other South Africans, around a series of important national, local, and workplace campaigns and struggles.
Surveys reveal that organised workplaces continue to achieve the greatest improvement in working conditions, wages, and a range of benefits, although often off a very low base.
COSATU played a key role in shifting economic policies & programmes including shifts in industrial & trade policies, procurement, investment, infrastructure etc. as reflected in IPAP & the NGP.
It has campaigned for improvements in labour laws to protect all workers, with some progress; while defending existing gains against those wanting to roll back worker rights.
It has campaigned for extension of social protection, the extension of grants to all vulnerable children, & income support for the unemployed; & the adoption of National Health Insurance as government policy.
COSATU has been a key force in defeating privatisation, defending the public sector, pushing for a developmental mandate for state enterprises, and expanding employment of those providing frontline public services.
It was a key driver of the 2008 National Framework Agreement in response to the global financial crisis, which promotes many of the proposals in the 2015 Plan.
- COSATU was key in defeating attempts by a right wing clique in the movement to collapse the Alliance, and redirect the NDR into a narrow nationalist project focused on winning elections.
- It played a key role in the Polokwane breakthrough, and the progressive policy shifts adopted at the 2007 Conference.
- It was central in the progressive posture adopted in the 2009 elections, and the drafting of a pro-worker elections manifesto
- It has forged improved relations with the ANC & government, and exercised a greater influence over policy.
- It played an important role in winning acceptance of the need to shift to a more interventionist developmental state.
- It has been a key player fighting against all forms of corruption
- It has won respect from society for consistency in advancing a programme based on solid principles, solidarity and sacrifice.
- COSATU & affiliates have played an important role in the international trade union movement
- It has played a significant role in Africa, particularly the Southern African movement, despite weaknesses
- It has been an important player in the International Labour Organisation, and has advanced the agenda of decent work both in the ILO and at home
- It has been an active participant in the struggles to advance a developmental trade agenda at the World Trade Organisation
- It has mobilised solidarity actions in support of workers, both in the region, as well as struggles in other parts of the world.
It is important to celebrate these achievements. But we need to avoid complacency or triumphalism, which only serve to mislead ourselves, rather than our adversaries. A careful assessment of the 2015 Plan reveals a mixed picture of progress & setbacks, bold action to achieve the Plan`s goals in some areas, & inaction on other fronts. We briefly capture some of the more important advances & challenges below.
The 2015 Plan aimed to avoid a worst - case scenario, defined as entailing:
- A rapid decline in membership to below 1 million by the 30th Anniversary of COSATU in 2015.
- The persistence of financial challenges, ultimately forcing a cutback in our roles on a range of issues.
- The coherence & unity of COSATU being undermined leading to splits.
- The collapse of the Alliance & in that context the ANC & the SACP also facing splits.
- A full- blown "skorokoro" scenario as painted by the September Commission Report.
This reports analysis reveals that we have avoided many elements of this scenario. But there are warning bells we need to heed.
To drive transformation needs a stronger Federation and stronger unions. Back to basics means being focused on strategic workplace, social, economic and political issues, without being captured by palace politics. If we lose touch with our members concerns there is the danger of finding ourselves the new TUCSA, outflanked by the new independent unions which are emerging as a result of dissatisfaction from the shopfloor, just as it happened with the Durban Strikes 39 years ago. COSATU must rediscover its very purpose of existence if it wants to make a real impact.
Assessment on the organisational plan
The 2015 Plan has proposals aimed at:
- Dramatically increasing the size of COSATU membership
- Improving the quality of our organisation
On increasing membership, we need to improve on current growth, based on a systematic annual recruitment plan, driven by affiliates and the Federation
The 2015 Plan has proposals aimed at improving the quality of our organisation, increased democratic participation, education and servicing and benefits to members. It calls for a comprehensive programme of organisational renewal. Does the current reality on the ground reflect this proposed shift? There are pockets of organisational excellence in the Federation. However, some worrying trends are emerging which need to be addressed:
Growing social distance between union leaders and the membership. Different lifestyles and material realities are creating a leadership which is not fully in tune with what members are facing.
Perceptions are setting in that some union leaders are reluctant to take up certain issues for fear of embarrassing the ANC.
Perceptions in the union survey among some workers of `growing corruption` amongst union leaders, and the sense that union leaders are being co-opted. While only a small minority (just over 10%) of members had actually witnessed or were directly aware of corruption in the union, this number is still far too high.
Worryingly, nearly 35% of members believed that there was some form of corruption or selling out of workers by leadership, even if they hadn`t seen it themselves. While these perceptions may be fed by misinformation up to a point, we need to act decisively to arrest any practices which are feeding these perceptions amongst workers.
COSATU interventions to assist unions, facing disgruntled members or internal difficulties, at times get resisted. Some see it as an attempt to undermine affiliate leadership, instead of welcoming that COSATU is playing its proper role. COSATU leaders who persevere with these interventions are then targeted, in an attempt to discredit them. We need to appreciate the right of the Federation to intervene, but in a manner that will foster cooperation with affected unions. Worryingly, internal problems are now leading to splits in unions. Old loyalties aren`t sufficient to stop workers from deserting their union, if they feel their interests aren`t being served.
Some workers are being too easily misled by opportunistic splinter groups, raising questions about the level of political education and organisational democracy in these unions. Disgruntled leaders who have fallen foul of organisational discipline are mobilising support, using populist tactics, & exploiting our organisational weaknesses.
This can lead to launching of new organisations, as we have seen with NATAWU being set up by former SATAWU leaders in opposition to SATAWU. We have seen the potentially devastating impact of opportunistic splinter groups on the unity of workers, most graphically seen recently with the activities of AMCU, set up by a former NUM leader in opposition to NUM.
Leaders are also getting drawn into narrow factional disputes. The COSATU leadership needs to be given a strengthened mandate to be able to act effectively to defend the unity and integrity of the Federation.
Lack of proper attention to members concerns is leading to a proliferation of small independent unions springing up.
Neglect by some unions of basic organisational controls & procedures is leading to some affiliates being deemed to be in violation of the LRA. Particularly disturbing are reports from the Department of Labour, although contested by affiliates, that a large number of affiliates have not complied with registration requirements.
Focus on COSATU`s organisation-building culture is diminishing- e.g. only 1/4 of union members in the workers survey had participated in a union educational programme. Just over half had attended a union meeting in the past year.
Distance of leaders from the membership is illustrated in the Survey by the fact that only 6% of the members knew who their union General Secretary or President was.
The labour movement is weakest where the working class has been most restructured, through casualisation, labour broking etc. The 2015 plan calls for unions to develop targeted strategies to address the needs of specific layers and sectors of workers, including youth, women, atypical workers, migrants, and the vulnerable unorganised workers.
Some work has been done by affiliates e.g. in terms of focusing on young workers, workers employed by labour brokers etc. But the Federation still needs to develop overall organising strategies, for these and other groupings of workers, drawing on the more successful approaches adopted by particular affiliates.
Assessment on socioeconomic plan
The matter of macro economic policy is at the heart of many disagreements on the economy, particularly questions relating to fiscal & taxation policy, monetary policy, exchange rate financial sector & investment policies, & matters relating to the movement of capital. Many countries around the world show that the ability of developmental states to regulate, lead &direct their economies, depends on the extent they have exercised control over these economic levers, compared to states which have abandoned this control to market forces.
Central to achieving the 2015 Plan, therefore is progress in breaking the deadlock on macro economic policy. The ANC Policy Conference agreed to initiate a review of macro economic policies, for consideration at Mangaung. This needs a serious engagement.
A key question needing attention is the question of investment policy, to deal with the crisis of unemployment, & counter the investment strike by private capital. The private sector is hoarding close on 1,2 trillion Rand in uninvested cash. This is social surplus which workers have produced, and which business are refusing to invest productively.
Any national agreement needs to address the need for measures to harness and direct this capital, through fiscal regulation, incentives, prescribed assets etc. The public sector too is sitting on far too many assets which are not being productively utilised. There needs to be a national investment framework and strategy which deliberately harnesses all these assets for development.
The 2015 Plan raises the need for more coherent strategies on wages, collective bargaining and social protection issues. It proposes far greater co-ordination by the Federation around the area of wages and collective bargaining, and suggests that it develop a clear framework, or model demands, to guide affiliates in their negotiations. This has not been implemented.
In line with the Plan, the May 2012 CEC discussion paper addressed the need for a coherent policy framework on wages and collective bargaining, including proposals on the need for a national minimum wage, the need for government to adopt a national wage solidarity framework, the need for comprehensive collective bargaining arrangements, and a connection between these labour market policies, and the establishment of comprehensive social protection, particularly for the unemployed.
Within this framework of a coherent wage & collective bargaining strategy, it would be important to revive the notion introduced in the 2015 Plan, of Federation-wide living wage model demands, which would guide affiliate negotiation strategies. This could be a key instrument for closing the apartheid wage gap, substantially raising wages particularly of low paid workers, and is aimed to promote greater convergence in standards across all industries, and fight for democratisation of the workplace.
Naledi should be requested to draft a proposal, drawing on the international experience, & the CEC discussion paper, on how such a wage strategy could be implemented. We urgently need to engage with government and the ANC on the need for a coherent wage and collective bargaining policy, since the current arrangements are failing to overcome the inherited inequities in our labour market, and are leading to an explosive situation in the country, which requires leadership.
The 2015 Plan calls for comprehensive social protection. COSATU has campaigned for a Basic Income Grant, to cover those who have fallen through the social security net. A ministerial task team on comprehensive social protection was supposed to address this matter, but again a Department of Social Development proposal for a workseekers grant was opposed by Treasury.
Now the ANC is considering a jobseekers grant for young people. We need to engage with this proposal, and determine whether all unemployed workseekers would qualify, since to limit it to those of a certain age would be discriminatory; further, whether conditions to be attached are reasonable, and would not lead to coercion of workseekers to accept unacceptable work; and finally, what the scale and duration of the benefits would be.
The 2015 plan proposes that Retirement Funds direct investment into the productive sector. At a policy level, some progress is being made: ANC Policy documents, & the Economic Development Department, are floating the possibility of prescribed requirements for investment of RFs; & promoting the desirability of a public investment vehicle, such as a development bond, through which workers can direct their savings.
While some engagement has taken place, far more work needs to be done by COSATU to drive greater control by workers of their investments, as part of a broader strategy to leverage control of the economy. We need to look at creative ways for workers to take greater control of their funds, including through the creation of an investment institution similar to the PIC, to invest private sector funds; a strategy to take forward the proposal for an administration company; measures to control the conduct of service providers; amendments to the Pension Funds Act; and the creation of a workers bank.
We have taken a number of similar resolutions on retirement funds before. Congress needs to ask why we are not taking these forward.
At another level, Treasury has attempted to delink discussion of retirement reform from the comprehensive social protection reform process. COSATU has strongly opposed this, including proposals from Treasury to unilaterally transform Provident funds, and force mandatory savings, outside of the provision of broader social protection. This is something workers will never accept, and we have warned Treasury that they are playing with fire on this issue. We are confident that we will stop this proposal from going ahead in its current form.
Assessment of the political plan
On the political front, we outlined above the considerable gains we have made since 2003, when the Alliance was in crisis, COSATU was marginalised, the ANC was a conveyor belt dominated by a topdown government culture, and government policy continued to be characterised in most areas by neoliberal approaches.
This relatively desperate political situation has been replaced by a new set of political challenges, which we discuss in detail in Part III below. We focus discussion here only on the specific proposals contained in the 2015 Plan.
The 2015 Plan proposes "to combine state and social power in a way that consistently tilts the balance of power in favour of the working class". The Plan calls for the organised working class to be a factor in ANC 2007 conference, & the SACP Congress. Polokwane, despite problems, represented a revolt from below, & assertion of policies biased to the working class. The Plan calls for active participation by COSATU in the elections campaign, & to help shape the ANC`s Manifesto, both of which were effectively implemented. The problems relate to what happened after the elections: the sense that the Alliance was being used as an election machine, & that the ANC failed to assert control of the state`s agenda.
The 2015 Plan proposes that COSATU assert the role of the Alliance as a Political Centre & table the proposal for an Alliance Pact. COSATU took both of these forward. Despite us tabling these proposals, & agreement in the 2008 Alliance Summit on the Political Centre, this was subsequently reversed. Lack of agreement on these 2 critical issues- the Alliance`s modus operandi, & its policy platform- led the Alliance to constantly zigzag between functionality & dysfunctionality. Little progress has been made on these fronts, & it remains a key outstanding task of the 2015 Plan. There is an agreed to 2011 Alliance programme on transformation, but this has not been implemented
The 2015 Plan calls for a campaign to ensure that the working class swells the ranks of the ANC, as part of the contestation for the soul of the movement, & `jealously defend the progressive & working class bias of the ANC` by calling on its members, shop stewards & leaders to join the ANC en masse. Many organised workers have joined the ANC since then, & COSATU members form a significant component of ANC membership. The ANC`s membership has grown by over 300% since 2002: membership rose from 416 846 members to 1 270 053 in January 2012. The 2012 COSATU workers survey reveals that over a quarter of COSATU members `are active in their ANC branch`. This suggests that around half of ANC members are also COSATU members, given that a quarter of COSATU members nationally totals about 550 000.
The question is what has been the impact of increased membership, & growing participation of workers, & what has driven this membership growth. Ordinary branch members are not well positioned to change the policy direction of the organisation, because of the top-down character of policy processes. Members only make a significant impact at big policy gatherings, after which the organisation returns to old patterns. Further, there is little to suggest that organised workers are changing the character of ANC leadership. It may be necessary to consider whether COSATU needs to be more active in giving guidance to workers in ANC branches, including on policy questions, & popularising its criteria for leadership.
At the level of the SACP too, there has been a significant growth in membership. In 2007 the Party reported a membership of 51 874, and this had increased to 154 220 members by its 13th Congress in July 2012. A significant trend however, is the reported concentration of SACP membership amongst the unemployed
However, the 2012 Workers Survey reveals that 6% of surveyed COSATU members are active in the SACP. This translates to over 130 000 COSATU members. If correct, this would suggest that the vast majority of Party members are COSATU members.
The 2015 Plan states that "the SACP is the vanguard of the working class, & we seek to build it into a strong, mass- based organisation that truly can be the bedrock for workers." The Plan calls for the Socialist Commission to develop a minimum platform of work, & to take forward the work of the Socialist Forums. Despite many discussions & bilaterals with the Party, the Commission has not yet been established. It also calls for us to encourage members to join on debit order, to encourage young workers to join the YCL, & to continue financial support to the Party. This has been done, but the question of financial self sufficiency remains an ongoing concern, not only as an organisational matter, but in terms of political independence.
The 2015 Plan calls on COSATU to step up its work in terms of ideological contestation & political education. It calls for the Federation to invest more resources on internal political education. The lack of progress in developing our political education is a serious weakness which we need to address as a matter of urgent priority.
The 2015 Plan proposes 2 elements to support the Mass Democratic Movement & social movements: Firstly for COSATU to support MDM formations, such as the student movements which need assistance, & to continue relations with the various coalitions, & our traditional allies. Secondly, it sets out 6 criteria for working with social movements. COSATU maintains healthy relations with traditional MDM formations, coalitions, & progressive civil society, & prioritises this work. Relations with the `new social movements` are more complex, as a few define themselves primarily in opposition to the ANC, & indirectly to COSATU, because of the Alliance. However, more nuanced rights based social movements are beginning to emerge such as SECTION27 & Equal Education Campaign, which respect our independence, & are developing a healthy relationship with the Federation.
The key challenge is for COSATU, & our allies to act to rebuild our traditional mass based sectoral MDM formations, & organs of peoples power. The absence of street committees in most areas, the weaknesses of SANCO, & weakness or collapse of many MDM organisations, has left many communities leaderless, & without organisational structures, which can sustain & give progressive direction to their struggles. Organised workers need to play a more active role in rebuilding these structures. ANC branches themselves must act as a social movement, not as appendages of local Councils.
Mass formations, & progressive civil society remain in a weak state, and an approach to rebuilding the MDM requires greater strategic focus, as well as robust engagement in the Alliance on our understanding of the role of progressive civil society in this second phase of our transition.
We have seen the upsurge of right wing political parties, & foundations. The DA, using right wing populist rhetoric, has openly targeted COSATU as its primary political adversary, in an attempt to occupy the political centre in the country, appropriate certain ANC programmes & symbols, and target in particular the unemployed youth as their entry into the African constituency. We are also seeing the re-emergence of FW De Klerk & his foundation, aligning with the DA, in an anti-majoritarean attack on the movement
On democratising the state the Plan calls for the Alliance to "assert its hegemony over the state and governance based on an agreed programme for change". Although we could not reach agreement on the Alliance Pact, the Alliance programme of action contains an agreement on the Political Centre which will be constituted by the Alliance NOB`s. This Political Centre can play a meaningful role if it was to function strategically. Regrettably the Alliance Political Centre has not been meeting and consequently does not drive any programme.
Alliance ideological and political contestation since 2007 has shifted the centre of political gravity in the state. A significantly different agenda emerged post-Polokwane, with an emerging focus on the need to build a developmental state, promote the decent work agenda, state-led industrial policy etc. While some of these shifts were, and remain highly contested, they reflect a far greater imprint of the working class on emerging policies, than pre-2007. The 2015 Plan`s call for greater engagement by COSATU in shaping policy has been advanced in a number of areas. The decision to set up the Ministry of Economic Development has created a counterweight to Treasury, which has already been evidenced eg through the emergence of new policies on procurement, beneficiation, & broad based industrialisation linked to infrastructure development. The setting up of the Planning Commission, too, was a shift towards long range planning by a developmental state, a demand which we had ourselves put on the agenda. The content of the planning nevertheless remains highly contested.
The 2015 Plan, linked to the agenda of building a developmental state, also calls for the defending & building of the public sector. Important advances have been made in that regard & COSATU has been a key force in defeating or rolling back privatisation, defending the public sector, pushing for a developmental mandate for state enterprises, & expanding employment of public sector workers providing key public services.
Other proposals of the 2015 Plan aimed at transforming the state include an Alliance Deployment strategy for public representatives, & proposals for a mixed electoral system, which would combine the PR & constituency based system. We have subsequently also called for a broader deployment strategy by the Alliance to deal with all strategic appointments into the state. Neither of these interventions, which are aimed at creating greater accountability by cadres deployed into state have been taken forward
The 2015 Plan proposes that we monitor the performance of Ministers & public representatives, & communicate assessments to our members. In the current electoral system, it is difficult to create accountability as there is no democratic mechanism of recall. Closer bilateral relations with Ministers & other deployed leaders, & greater openness in the movement to consultation over appointments, has created an improved environment for COSATU to input our concerns.
The Movement and the Revolution at a crossroads
" ...The issues of the developmental state or the defence of the revolution are no longer prominent... This erodes the principle of unity, respect, collective leadership & adhering to policies that advance the revolution & its defence. When interests are at stake, the issue of leadership becomes a matter of "do or die". The issue is not how the organisation will or should be led, but how the interests of certain people must be protected... the money issue has become a big sickness in the organization. It is used to promote self-interest & that impacts on how the organisation is run. This affects not only the ANC but also the Alliance as a whole.
This is a challenge that faces many liberation movements in the second decade of liberation... In some cases the organisations change and become something unrecognisable. We need to uproot this sickness so that our organisations... can become instruments of the revolution rather than instruments of certain classes and certain people. ... If we do that we will restore respect, comradeship & dignity in the ANC and the Alliance. We will stop the situation where what should have been the healthy and constructive contradictions within the broader movement become antagonistic and turns comrades into enemies of one another. We will stop clique-ism and gossip and adhere to the revolutionary way of doing things. We will restore the character of the ANC. These tendencies must be fought by all who still call themselves revolutionaries."
Comrade Jacob Zuma, address to the COSATU CC, June 2011
..The country is facing a multiple crisis. The ANCs Policy Conference in June 2012 focused on some elements, in particular the crisis of poverty, inequality, & unemployment, & the movements emerging organisational crisis; & called for the launching of a second phase of our transition, which should concentrate in particular on a radical shift in economic policies. This echoes the view of COSATU that the policy trajectory of the last 18 years has failed to address key challenges of the NDR, & that a qualitative economic shift is required if we are to avoid the total derailing of the NDR.
..The ANC assertion that it cannot be business as usual, given these multiple challenges, is welcome. However, the movement must ensure that the language of a radical shift is matched by radical content in what is proposed. We need systematic progress to implement the demands of the Freedom Charter. The movement needs to build capacity to deal with the crisis of non-implementation & the culture of mediocrity. This Congress must be about how we give content to this 2nd phase, & how we create our own `Lula moment`, to assist our country in forging a new direction.
It is important that there appears to be emerging convergence on the challenges confronting us. However, deeper analysis reveals that far more work needs to be done in reaching consensus in the Alliance on an:
- Analysis of the character and extent of the crisis; and therefore on
- What needs to be done.
The emerging multiple crisis
A multiple crisis is emerging in society, which, if not addressed, has the potential to result in an organisational implosion, and social explosion, which could reverse the gains of our democracy, and prevent us from advancing the core tasks of the NDR. This is a scenario which we cannot allow to happen. We need to be shaken out of our comfort zones, and develop a totally new mindset, if we are to appreciate the extent of this emerging crisis, and what measures are needed to address it. Key elements of this emerging multiple crisis include:
- An organisational crisis
- A crisis in the state
- A social crisis of poverty, inequality, & unemployment
- A crisis of political legitimacy
An emerging organisational crisis, in which the ANC, in particular, is increasingly wracked by factionalism, patronage and corruption, and is unable to reassert the mission and strategic vision of the organisation. Struggles are increasingly over control of the levers of accumulation. Those challenging these abuses find their lives in danger. There is growing social distance between the leadership and the rank and file. This emerging crisis was clearly identified by the 2010 ANC NGC, & the organisational renewal paper to the 2012 Policy Conference.
This crisis is systemic and relates to broader crises in the state & society. Because the ANC is the ruling party, & leader of the Alliance, & society, this situation has profound implications more broadly, for governance from national to local levels, for all state institutions, and for progressive civil society, including the labour movement. Success in addressing this crisis is therefore critical in resolving other dimensions of the crisis. The ANC is embarking on an organisational renewal programme to fight these threats to the movement. We must do everything we can to assist this fight, & make sure that the ANC succeeds.
A crisis in the state, in which years of neglect, fiscal cutbacks, & contracting out of state responsibilities - combined with endemic corruption, and a failure of political & bureaucratic leadershiptogether render elements of the state apparatus increasingly ineffective, or even dysfunctional. The most devastating indictment of this failure has come from the AG: Only 3 of 36 government departments received clean audits in 2010/11, and only 13 of 343 local governments in 2011/12!
This institutional crisis in parts of the state is directly related to the crisis of non-delivery which confronts many working class communities. It is also linked to the legacy of economic policies, which commodified and privatised basic services, as well as underfunding public services, and shifted the burden to the working class. Inappropriate economic policies, & problematic funding & institutional frameworks form a toxic combination, which lead to the types of crises we have seen recently with electricity provision, housing, public transport, public health & public education.
The role of Provinces has also been sharply raised by these crises. The textbook saga in Limpopo, which demonstrated an area of total state dysfunctionality, provides a serious wake-up call on what may face us, on a larger scale, if these trends are not arrested through a set of deliberate interventions.
Failure to act decisively, is partly a result of divisions in the movement, & paralysis in the state. The areas of crisis are tending to overshadow important areas of advance in the democratic state, & drag down the morale of the public sector, & the entire society. A danger is that failure to act to arrest this trend will also lead to defeatism about the possibility of building a developmental state.
A crisis of poverty, inequality, & unemployment, reproduced by the structural features of our economy. This systemic crisis is a function of inherited economic relations, but also worsened by inappropriate neo-liberal policies, & policies focused on promoting elite economic empowerment. It is now accepted, in our broad movement, & government, that even higher rates of economic growth along this problematic growth path will not succeed in addressing these challenges, but will continue to produce the same structural problems which generate the triple crisis; & that we need to embark on a different growth path. It is now agreed in principle that there is need for a `radical shift` in economic policies.
Despite the Polokwane Resolutions providing clear support for this, contestation continues in the movement & state on what should constitute the policy shift. A powerful bloc in the political leadership & bureaucracy (supported by capital) strongly resist a change from conservative macro-economic policies. This has led to economic policy paralysis, & failure to drive a coherent agenda, leading to progressive elements of industrial & other policies failing to make sufficient impact. There is also failure to grasp the nettle that addressing this crisis requires a systematic programme of income redistribution, social protection and wage policies, which can radically reduce poverty & inequality in the short term; as well as appropriate economic interventions providing the economic stimulus, to underpin a major recovery in employment. This is the lesson of Brazil.
An emerging crisis of political legitimacy & disillusionment. These 3 sets of crises- in the movement, state, & economy- are laying the basis for growing disillusionment in society, & even questions about the legitimacy of the leadership in the movement & state. Opinion polls, which should not simply be dismissed, are increasingly showing worrying trends, particularly amongst the youth, which suggest increasing political demobilisation and alienation of society. This includes suggestions that growing numbers of the electorate don`t intend to vote in 2014, & increasingly negative perceptions of the leadership. Any programme of radical transformation, if it has hope of succeeding, must rely on mobilisation of the people.
These trends should not be taken lightly, or dismissed as a creation of the media. The hostile agenda of certain sections of society & the media, can only be effectively countered by a credible leadership, which communicates effectively, & takes meaningful action to turn the situation around, including by taking drastic steps to improve the image of the movement. Opinion polls continue to show the worrying trend of people losing faith in the current leadership, & still focusing on Comrade Nelson Mandela as their saviour.
While we don`t agree that the liberal anti-majoritarian organisations are the main problem, there are a number of right wing organisations which are attempting to orchestrate a sense of crisis, and the impossibility of moving forward, using a range of tactics, including through the courts. However it would be a mistake to paint all critics, or those using the courts, with the same brush.
In the context of growing social distress, & desperation of the unemployed, alienation from the movement can easily be replaced by right wing populist alternatives, which aim to divide workers from the unemployed, South Africans from migrants, promote tribal divisions etc. Spontaneous protests about community problems are too easily dismissed as being the work of opportunist elements. South Africa is now the protest capital of the world.
Further, local government elections showed an alarming trend for the ANC to lose support to the DA, including in traditional ANC areas. Despite these trends, we still have a huge reservoir of support & goodwill in the country, which we need to mobilise through acting decisively to reverse these negative trends, and implementing a programme which shows that we are serious about transforming peoples lives.
The value of a revolution is largely measured by the people in terms of material improvement in their lives. But who have been the main beneficiaries of our democratic revolution in the first 18 years? The socio-economic section, shows that the main beneficiaries have been capital, particularly white monopoly capital, and a small emerging elite. While profits rise, workers are receiving a declining share of GDP. The combination of high unemployment, low wages, and limited social protection, mean that in real terms the income and living standards of many workers and their families have not improved.
Socially, many of the initial gains made in terms of `delivery` have not been sustained, because of commodification, & lack of accountability by state structures & public representatives, especially in poor communities. Further- linked to a growing crisis of corruption and dysfunctionality in provincial and local governance- there is an emerging crisis in public delivery of services, particularly in the areas of education, health, transport, housing, and electricity.
Redistribution of assets, including land has not taken place in any meaningful way. There is emerging agreement in the Alliance that this trajectory of the last 18 years therefore has to change.
Africa itself, & revolutions elsewhere, has seen too many liberation movements with noble ideals, hijacked by corrupt individuals, predatory classes, & foreign interests, for us to close our eyes to that danger now. It is the working class, and the poorest of the poor, who always end up the worst victims of these failed revolutions. Our liberation movement, and our struggle, will never be up for sale.
While the rich have more resources to cushion themselves, a predator state, will ultimately eat away, and consume the whole of society. No one is immune. But as we have seen in recent times, it is up to the organised working class to stand up, and mobilise society, against corruption, greed, and abuse of power and resources.
Impact of these crises on COSATU
"COSATU has influence but on issues that has nothing to do with workers... like Polokwane and Mangaung, that`s where you`ll start to hear COSATU, but when it comes to worker issues on the ground and to influence government to change policies that affects workers you find it asking " Workers focus group, Peddie Eastern Cape, June 2012
This multiple crisis will have a direct & indirect effect on the cohesion of COSATU, & ultimately lead to a crisis in the organisation, if we don`t handle things correctly. Most obviously, the deepening crisis facing the working class will put growing stress on workers & the Federation, particularly if it is not seen to be responding adequately to their most pressing challenges.
Further, measures taken by capital to restructure the economy, and transform the nature of employment relations, puts new pressures on the organisation, as challenges of organising atypical and vulnerable workers grow increasingly difficult.
At a macro political level, differences within the Federation about its political posture, and strategic and tactical approaches to challenges in the movement, the state and society, are placing growing pressure on the cohesion of COSATU`s leadership collective, as we outline in some detail in this political report. Historical consensus which had emerged since the mid 90`s on our strategic posture is increasingly being undermined, & political differences magnified.
Therefore COSATU has a direct stake in the development of a more coherent political response to these challenges by the movement as a whole. In addressing these challenges COSATU needs to defend its traditions of addressing matters robustly and honestly, promoting openness in debating the issues, and respect for organisational decisions. Importantly, the organisation needs to avoid:
- Factional politics taking root
- Denialism about the extent of the challenges; or
- Shirking responsibility for our role in addressing them
We analyse challenges to COSATU`s political cohesion in this Political Report, particularly concerns which have arisen over the last year. These concerns are serious, and their potential impact on the organisation should not be underplayed. At the same time, the organisation remains in a relatively good position to advance alternatives in response to the different dimensions of the emerging crisis:
In relation to the organisational crisis, COSATU remains a movement which is on the whole controlled by its members, & challenges of corruption & undemocratic practices are not dominant. In relation to the crisis in the state, our members are at the coalface of delivery, and conscious of the need to transform a range of practices & dynamics in the public sector. Our unions have embarked on a number of campaigns to improve & transform the public service, although far more needs to be done. Our members are key activists in the fight against corruption.
In relation to the economic crisis, & the triple challenge, COSATU has been at the forefront of promoting alternatives on issues such as employment creating industrial and trade policy, the need for alternative monetary and fiscal policies, transformation of the financial sector, and redistributive labour market and social protection policies.
In relation to the legitimacy crisis of our broad movement in society, the Federation is relatively well placed. COSATU`s credibility in society remains high, because of the organisations consistency in speaking honestly about the challenges facing the country, raising its concerns without fear or favour, and preparedness to be self-critical, where necessary. Most importantly its ability, and willingness, to mobilise its members and society to act in the interests of ordinary people. A recent survey, published in July 2012 showed that among a range of respondents, from workers to higher income groups, COSATU commands a great deal of respect.
The organisation has managed to establish this degree of credibility despite ongoing attacks on it, around issues such as the wage subsidy, certain issues of economic policy etc. However, we need to avoid complacency, and recognise that our handling of certain matters could be improved. We must continue to find ways to engage the media & society in the battle of ideas, to ensure that the perspectives of workers are properly & fairly reflected.
Most importantly we need a shift in our mindset to recognise that the labour movement needs to renew itself, and re-establish its very purpose of existence, by placing much greater emphasis on issues which matter most to workers.
Impact of these crises on the left
Failure to turn the situation around will be devastating for the progressive forces, & the left project. Ordinary people will rightly question why, having repeatedly been given an overwhelming mandate to lead transformation of society, our government has continued to advance policies which in effect entrench the structures of power and privilege in society, with modifications aimed at incorporating a new elite; while the lives of poor communities and working people continue to be characterised by poverty, disease, ignorance and unemployment.
If their movement continues to fail them, they will be forced to look for an alternative. And international experience shows that this alternative won`t necessarily be a left alternative. In approaching these matters we need to avoid two extremes- being overoptimistic, by ignoring reality, & as a result losing credibility; or exaggerating the negatives, completely losing hope and demoralising our people. We approach the following scenarios in the spirit of avoiding either extreme.
The low road scenario
Let us paint what seems to be an extreme scenario:
The downward slide in the movement & the state continues. Delegates go to the ANC Conference in Mangaung focused on the leadership contest only, and policy questions fall by the wayside. A grinding machine in the Provinces and Regions sifts who gets to the Conference. You have to be part of this machinery to control the conference. Nearly everyone there has a material stake in the results. Principle is replaced by politics of power & patronage.
The ANC leadership in most Provinces & regions are compromised, by the presence of tenderpreneurs in their ranks. The ANC Conference is an expression of pure slate politics, & good people from either side are excluded. Those who lose out form a camp of the disillusioned and disgruntled. Divisions are so deep, that talk of a second phase of the transition is mere lip service. The ANC is too weak and divided to drive a new agenda.
As a result, the ANC again loses part of the electorate in 2014. Many voters don`t participate because of disillusionment. We increasingly move towards US-style politics, because of apathy, where a minority of the population participate in elections. Politics shift to the right, the DA further consolidating its hold on the minorities, and makes inroads into the majority vote. The non-racial and national project slips away. The working class project is marginalised, as is the gender project.
Instead of asserting hegemony, the ANC becomes increasingly discredited in broader society, although a core still remain loyal to the ANC. Having placed all its eggs in the ANC basket, the left finds itself marginalised - because the ANC is seen as a discredited faction which has betrayed the people, and the Party & COSATU are perceived to have been part of that betrayal. The revolution has reached a dead end. People start searching for solutions elsewhere.
The working class must do whatever it takes to stop this low road scenario from materialising. It is not an option for us to allow a derailed revolution, or the emergence of a DA or other reactionary government in future.
A high road scenario - the Lula moment
Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone`s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children. Amilcar Cabral
The ANC is proposing to launch a second, more radical, phase of the transition, which will coincide with the second term of the ANC post-Polokwane. This raises interesting parallels with the Brazilian experience, where the first term of the Workers Party (PT), led by President Lula from 2002-6 was fraught with all sorts of difficulties. In President Lula`s second term (2006-10) he engineered a dramatic turnaround, which saw a series of amazing achievements in terms of improvements of the living standards of the working people of Brazil. These achievements continue to this day, under the leadership of his successor, President Dilma. We refer to this turnaround as the `Lula moment` and pose the question as to whether we are able to drive our own Lula Moment, given the challenges, and possibilities we have outlined under the low road scenario.
What is happening in Brazil
A revolution is taking place in peoples living standards in Brazil, & many parts of Latin America. Strides are being made in reducing poverty, creating decent work, & reducing inequality and unemployment, over a short period. At the heart of the gains in the labour market, is the consolidation of national minimum wages, and collective bargaining, with a deliberate strategy driven by progressive governments, to substantially increase the real level of minimum wages, and address the plight of the working poor.
The other key leg of this strategy to raise peoples incomes, is the introduction of social protection measures to ensure that all the poor, including the unemployed, have access to basic income.
These redistributive policies have been effectively combined with state-driven industrial and investment strategies. How have these achievements been driven politically in Brazil?
In the first term of his government (2002-2006), President Lula was tainted both by the adoption of neo-liberal economic policies, as well as a serious problem of corruption in the Party and in government:
During Lula`s first administration, conservative fiscal and monetary policies prevented any significant improvement of the country`s social indicators, and wages and employment stagnated. To cap it all, in the run-up to the 2006 elections the administration was battered by a relentless succession of corruption scandals backed up by media and political hysteria which suggested that Lula might be impeached or, at the very least, defeated in his bid for re-election.
Lula, together with allies in the Workers Party (PT), state, and the broader movement, acted decisively to turn this around, in his second term, moving to address these problems in policy and leadership, both in government and the party. Policies were implemented which radically increased the income of workers and the poor (see p. 36 political report)
Government and Party leadership was changed, and important policy shifts were engineered, regaining the support of worker and peasant organisations, and led to a huge increase in support from the masses. By the end of Lula`s second term (2010), surveys put his support at 80%, making him the most popular leader in the world.
An interview in November 2010 with a progressive Brazilian economics Professor, a left critic of Lula`s government, acknowledges the progressive impact of this turnaround, & outlines how this was done, including:
"He recomposed his top team, decimated by the scandals. Heterodox economists (economists who draw from various schools of thought), & nationalist diplomats aligned with the PT were appointed to head the Ministry of Finance, the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs and the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), the largest development bank in the world... they have been able to implement activist and distributive fiscal and financial policies, and to moderate the Central Bank`s orthodoxy....
"The administration pushed up the minimum wage gradually and consistently, and embarked on a reasonably ambitious `programme of growth acceleration` focusing on investments in infrastructure, transport and energy. In the higher education sector, 14 new federal universities were created, staffed by thousands of new academics, to cater for 210,000 new students."
"The government`s social programmes were also expanded, especially `bolsa família` (an income support programme for poor households). The buoyant economy created 14 million new formal sector jobs... the social benefits paid in the poorest regions supported local production, rather than fuelling purchases of imported durable goods. The strengthening of the domestic market, the expansion of production and careful banking regulation helped to shelter the Brazilian economy from the ravages of the global crisis:
"GDP is poised to grow by 7.5% in 2010. The minimum wage rose by 67 per cent between 2003 and 2010 ... the Gini coefficient fell from 0.57 in 1995 to 0.52 in 2008, and salaries rose from 58% of GDP in 2004 to 62% in 2009... Lula`s government has also played an important role in the political stabilisation of Latin America and, in particular, supporting the left-wing administrations ...None of these outcomes is revolutionary, but they are real enough. For these reasons...Lula`s popularity among the poor, and in the poorest regions, is overwhelming. .."
These major advances in Brazil don`t mean that it has solved its fundamental problems. It remains a capitalist society, with high levels of inequality, poverty, violence and landlessness. Even though it has begun to make huge strides in reducing some of the most negative features of Brazilian society, the Brazilian government continues to face criticism from the left on a number of issues.
Lessons from Brazil
A more detailed study is required of the Brazilian experience, but some initial lessons include:
- Decisive political leadership enabled the Brazilian leadership to navigate out of an emerging crisis, and use the need for change to chart a new path. They were not blackmailed by pressure from the conservative establishment, or problems in their own ranks, to abandon their programme of social transformation. Instead they became more focused and decisive.
These developments in Brazil are part of the resurgence of left alternatives throughout the continent, particularly over the last decade. Seven of the ten major Latin American countries now have left or centre left governments, namely Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Peru. Increasingly this bloc of progressive states (despite some differences between them) is characterised by:
- A rapidly expanding state role in the economy, with strategic ownership of key sectors; active promotion of social ownership, particularly through a huge increase in cooperatives; pursuit of expansionary macro economic approaches; and lastly, progressive interventions to transform the labour market, by formalising employment, combating atypical work, raising wage levels and promoting collective bargaining. In the case of the more left governments, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina, governments have actively promoted popular participation, and the growing assertiveness of the working class and peasantry. This has led to new forms of popular democracy.
We need to draw political lessons from this Brazilian and Latin American experience. In the next section we look at some of the interventions which could be pursued in South Africa, during this second phase of the transition, which could help us to create our own Lula Moment. This strategic path is not an option, but a necessity for the working class, if we are to play our role as the leading motive force, putting the NDR on track, and keeping it there.
A high road scenario for South Africa
It is said that a crisis represents both a threat & opportunity. At the international level, the financial crisis has opened up possibilities, particularly for the global South, to do things differently. Similarly, our domestic crises could, if approached correctly, create an opportunity for us to break with past practices, & approach things differently in the 4 identified areas:
Organisationally, to take radical steps to reassert the values of sacrifice, selflessness, service to the people, democratic participation, harnessing of peoples power etc, including acting decisively to combat conflicts of interest in the movement. The ANC Organisational Renewal paper makes a call that the "Mangaung Centenary Conference should strive to be a watershed by addressing some of the persistent challenges that have plagued our movement since 1994". This will also contribute to narrowing social distance between leaders and the masses.
At the level of the state, to take urgent measures to arrest the downward slide, and implement strategies to systematically build an effective and capable developmental state, which leads social and economic transformation.
In terms of the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, to develop and implement a coherent set of policy interventions, which, in reality and not just at the level of rhetoric, constitute a radical shift, putting the creation of decent work, and redistribution, at the centre of policy. Economically, this means a total break with orthodox neoliberal policies, which have failed our country.
Visible progress in these three areas will go a long way to combating the emerging alienation and legitimacy crisis of the movement, and renewing the confidence and involvement of our people in driving the revolutionary project. But we need to do far more to engage our people, dynamically interact with them in finding solutions to these challenges, and communicate far more effectively on this radical shift, if they are to appreciate what it is we are trying to achieve.
The strategic interventions proposed by this Congress need to focus on transformation in the 3 key pillars we have identified - the movement, the state and the economy:
In relation to the ANC, we need to ask what interventions are required to ensure a leadership which is uncompromised, and is primarily driven by its desire to address the needs of the people; an ANC which operates in a democratic and accountable manner, and takes responsibility for transformation; and an Alliance which is able to shape the strategic direction of the movement and the state.
At the level of the democratic state, we need to spell out what needs to be done to take full control of the levers of governance; make the leadership and bureaucracy accountable to the democratic mandate; and answerable for their performance. Failure to do this will mean that powerful centres in government and the state continue to drive agendas which are contrary to that of the movement; and leaders and bureaucrats continue to abuse public resources with impunity.
At the level of the economy, we need to spell out what could constitute the `radical economic shift` which would change the trajectory in terms of distribution of income, employment, access to assets etc. It would require a coherent package of economic policies which ensure that macro-economic policies, industrial policy, labour market policies, and social protection, are driven by the same agenda, unlike the current situation, where policies contradict each other, and are held hostage by key centres of economic power, particularly Treasury and the SA Reserve Bank, which needs a new mandate.
It would also require a strategic set of interventions to harness the power of the state to redirect the economy. Failure to do these things would mean that we continue to pay lip service to economic shifts, while in reality the market, and power centres aligned to finance capital, or the new elite, continue to drive the agenda.
An understanding of the power dynamics summarised above is important to help appreciate why progressive resolutions, or stated policy shifts, aren`t in themselves sufficient to change the trajectory of the country. Many progressive resolutions from Polokwane, the 2010 NGC, and the Alliance Summit remain unimplemented because they threaten vested interests who continue to dominate the policy agenda.
Therefore any decisive advance depends on a radical shift in power relations. This, amongst others, requires a focused leadership collective with the necessary political will, including to challenge entrenched interests in the movement, state and capital. The outcome of Mangaung will indicate whether this is on the agenda.
COSATU`s political strategy of mobilising social power combined with engagement in all forums and sites of struggle remains valid and correct. However, in the absence of meaningful agreements to implement a programme at the level of the ruling party and the state, gains arising from this strategy are limited and difficult to sustain.
COSATU can contribute to this reconfiguration of power relations if we are able to advance a clear proposal on what needs to be done to achieve such a comprehensive agreement. This requires that the Federation itself is united on a minimum platform, or set of interventions which are required to break the political paralysis. If COSATU can agree on what should constitute such a platform, this will also help deal with emerging political divisions in the Federation, and harness the power of organised workers to such an agenda. This would in itself be a major contribution towards advancing a radical shift.
This will not by itself be sufficient. The ANC would need to share our view on the necessity for such a platform. The 2011 Alliance Summit agreed on an Alliance programme of action. This is a step forward in agreeing to take forward a programme on certain issues, but falls short of a comprehensive policy platform, which addresses the identified crisis areas. This Political Report outlines problems we have encountered in securing agreement on the strategic Political Centre, and need for an Alliance Pact, as mandated by COSATU Congress. However, conditions have changed in important respects, which suggest that prospects may have improved:
There is now agreement in principle that we need to make substantial political changes in the functioning of the movement and the state; and that a radical economic shift is required. Conditions described above (the multiple crises) are putting huge pressure on the forces for change to put forward a united front on an alternative platform. The international situation has also created new policy space to promote progressive alternatives. Therefore there is objectively a greater basis for the Alliance to agree on a platform than there was in the past. It is less important whether this is called a Pact, or an agreement. More important is the content of what is agreed, and the need to ensure that meaningful commitments are made on the critical issues.
A National Agreement
Elements of such an agreement which should be considered include:
. Measures to ensure representivity and integrity of the new leadership collective, at national provincial and local levels, and to combat social distance.
. Legislation to govern conflicts of interest in the state and the movement; policy to prevent those convicted of certain types of offenses from holding certain leadership positions; as well as a package of interventions to combat corruption.
Interventions to advance a radical economic shift, including specific commitments to align macro-economic policies, & all institutions of state, to the agenda of promoting decent work, & interventions to dramatically scale up the state`s role in strategic sectors of the economy.
A commitment that appointments to strategic positions will be reviewed to effect these changes in strategic Ministries, including Treasury, the SA Reserve Bank, and key SOEs and DFI`s, and that their mandates be changed accordingly. A more focused mandate should also be given to the National Planning Commission to realign the planning process to reflect this radical shift.
Implementing proposals to promote a more effective, coordinated developmental state, including the Alliance agreed proposal to implement a Council of State.
A coherent labour market, wages and incomes policy, including a legislated national minimum wage, linked to a minimum living level, and comprehensive collective bargaining; and social protection measures.
Special intervention programmes to address crisis situations, in public health and education, and other identified areas of service delivery.
Agreement on a protocol on the Alliance and Governance to ensure effective implementation of ANC and Alliance policies, and co-ordination with the work of government.
Related to the above, an Alliance mechanism to receive reports, monitor and ensure implementation of identified strategic or priority Alliance decisions which seek to contribute to this radical shift.
E.g. Resolutions from the NGC on state ownership in key sectors of economy, and transformation of the mining sector, and, various Polokwane and Manifesto undertakings on the economy, corruption and state transformation etc.
Given the limitations of the existing Alliance POA, what do we do to achieve such a comprehensive Alliance agreement? Once the ANC Conference is over, the danger is that the urgency for such an accord would be lost. Therefore, if an Alliance agreement, as set out above, were to have the necessary impact, its key elements would preferably need to be agreed before December, for endorsement at the Mangaung Conference.
This should be a clearly spelled out agreement, not something with vague statements of intent. It should set out a clear sequence of practical commitments to advance each of the identified areas within reasonable time frames. To counter growing public scepticism that radical-sounding statements are merely hollow rhetoric, it would be important to embark on a set of concrete confidence-building steps, to re-establish the belief amongst people, and the broader movement, that a real change is being advanced. Such concrete actions could be identified for each of the elements of the platform, in a way, which demonstrates that we are indeed embarking on a radical shift, rather than a business as usual posture.
One area needing special emphasis is the urgency of building capacity to implement policy directives. Polokwane, the Manifestos, State of the Nation Addresses, ANC Conferences (including the NGC and recent Policy Conference) contain many positive and progressive announcements on what will be done, yet the sorry track record of non-implementation, has led to the disillusionment referred to in this report.
One of the main reasons for this state of affairs is the organisational weakness we have referred to, as well as mediocrity, which is a by product of slate politics and divisions. We need to take responsibility for our failure to implement, and take corrective measures.
This Congress needs to address the risk of us repeating history, by basing our actions purely on trust. We have to mobilise the working class, and broader society, around the urgency for such a comprehensive set of interventions. We must avoid the danger that we reach an agreement, but post December, are unable to hold leaders to account in terms of meeting its conditions. We analyse in this political report how, in recent years, leaders have been pulled in many different directions by competing interests, and factions, and as a result have been unable to act decisively.
How do we avoid this situation recurring? What will be different this time? We need to ensure that we mobilise pressure from below. The current balance of forces in the movement suggests that a mobilised working class has the best opportunity in a long time to set clear conditions under which the new leadership will be given a mandate. We have the possibility of creating our own Lula Moment. We dare not fail!
Part II: The International Balance of Forces post the Global Economic Crisis:
Implications for South Africa
On the international balance of forces
COSATU has always argued that the international balance of forces in which neo-liberalism was dominant, were not insurmountable and required intelligent strategy to manage rather than conceding without a fight.
Nevertheless, shifts in the international balance of forces, and the alignment of states around different policy trajectories, greatly enhance the ability of peoples and states to forge a progressive policy agenda. Therefore the emergence of the international economic crisis, and the collapse of neo-liberalism as the dominant policy agenda, certainly creates greater possibilities for the assertion of progressive alternatives.
The international situation post the global economic crisis
The global financial crisis which erupted in 2008, was a systemic crisis, which quickly developed into an all-round economic crisis, with its centre of gravity in the advanced capitalist countries, but with devastating impacts for countries of the South.
The first phase of the crisis suggested that the world was entering into a new post neo-liberal era, which would see huge Keynesian type demand stimulus interventions (particularly through government spending), extensive state involvement in ownership, through nationalisation, and much tighter regulation of capital, particularly in the financial sector.
The second phase, which is still unfolding, saw the reassertion of neo-liberal policy interventions, to secure the financial sector, in the face of massive debts run up by governments in the first phase.
The centre of economic gravity has shifted to the South, particularly China. The developed North has become increasingly dependent on the developing world to stabilise its economies.
Economic orthodoxy has been shattered, even amongst the proponents of capitalism. Global financial architecture, & economic governance, is now the subject of growing contestation. Sustainability of the economic growth model, is being questioned, in relation to:
- The impact of growing inequality and poverty in creating systemic crises.
- The environmental limits of uncontrolled, destructive growth.
- The viability of a one-sided export led growth model, which depends on growing demand from the developed world, now in crisis.
Responses to the crisis
Governments, and multilateral institutions, have adopted a range of different responses to the crisis. These include:
- Bail-outs of the banks
- Stimulus packages vs. Cutbacks
- International multilateral interventions
- South South alliances
- The attack on labour in the North
We focus on a few of these.
Stimulus packages vs cutbacks:
Much of the economic stimulus package in the North went to the exercise of rescuing the financial sector. While it pumped some stimulus into the economy, there was a huge cost. It has left governments with massive debts, which have laid the basis for the `austerity backlash`.
The opposite approach was followed in China, which introduced a $600 billion stimulus package, to generate domestic demand.
International multilateral interventions:
- Bodies like the G20, which include leading developing nations, began to displace the historic role of the G8 developed nations club. This was an advance. However, the question is whether the various G20 summits achieved anything concrete.
The attack on labour in the North:
- The crisis is being used by the powerful, particularly in the developed North, to engineer a process of `creative destruction`, to re-establish conditions of profitability for the owners of capital, by imposing economic restructuring on the working class. The living standards of the populace in developed capitalist economies is being attacked on a number of fronts:
- Massive cutbacks in public sector services and jobs
- Attacks on social protection, unemployment benefits, pensions etc
- Attacks on collective bargaining and other union rights
- Attacks on income and wages.
The struggle in Europe:
The attack on workers in Europe, has led to an upsurge in mass struggle. There has been growing mobilisation in a number of countries, with workers leading some of the largest demonstrations since World War II.
There are four structural factors underlying this upsurge: Firstly, rising unemployment. Secondly, growing social and income inequality, reflected in declining labour income as a percentage of GDP since the late 1970`s, (from 68% of GDP in 1975 to 57% in 2005). Thirdly, public expenditure on social protection has declined. Fourthly, a decline in labour and social rights.
Global alternatives to neo-liberalism
Progressive states and global unions are beginning to advance practical alternatives to the neo-liberal response, including through engagement in international institutions. These include promoting global economic stimulus, and advancing redistribution, fair labour standards and social protection; reforming international financial architecture; promoting international wage bargaining; developing forms of regional economic organisation delinking countries in the South from current patterns of domination; and interventions to promote a green economy.
While these proposals are not socialist, and can best be described as `radical reforms`, taken together they could support transition to a different type of international order, movement away from the current dangerous threats of economic implosion (as well as military aggression), on an even larger scale, and promote economic democratisation.
Global Jobs Pact
In 2009, The ILO`s Labour Conference adopted a Global Jobs Pact. There are significant similarities to the Framework for South Africa`s response to the Global Economic Crisis, adopted in February 2009. The ILO Global Jobs Pact proposes fairly far-reaching interventions to respond to the crisis, with a heavy emphasis on macro-economic stimulus, decent work, redistribution, social dialogue and social protection.
International collective bargaining
If there is an international battle taking place with forces committed to restoring the reign of neo-liberalism by attacking workers and their organisations; there needs to be alternative strategies and centres of power to counterbalance and outmanoeuvre them.
A key element of this would be to find ways to develop international institutions of collective bargaining. This would require both international collective agreements, as well as transformation of unions into international structures. Some Global Union Federations, and unions organised in global corporations, have begun to advance Global Framework Agreements, which could constitute a step towards new institutions of international collective bargaining. An example of this is the agreement negotiated at Lukoil, Russia`s second largest oil company, spearheaded by the Russian trade union movement, binding on all its international operations.
Regional economic alternatives
Shifts in economic power to the South, create the possibility for a more assertive regional economic strategy, de-linking countries from economic domination by advanced capitalist states, & multinationals. This promotes greater control over natural resources, their beneficiation, & prices, thereby undermining a key cornerstone of colonial, & neo-colonial domination.
The Latin American model places emphasis on more autonomous development of the region, making it less dependent on the economies of the North. This shift to regional trade does not necessarily decrease trade, but places greater emphasis on trade within the region. In Africa a mere 10% of trade is between fellow countries on the continent (it is 80% in Europe). Changing the trade balance promotes greater regional self-sufficiency, & reduces carbon intensity of economies, given the dramatic reduction in the transportation of traded goods.
African regional development challenge
Can Africa use its access to strategic minerals to implement an alternative regional development plan, and as a launch pad for a broad based industrialisation strategy? To do this, needs a critical mass of progressive governments, with political will to harness resources for the benefit of our people, rather than external interests, as the basis for a new type of integration. Only then could the recently launched African Free Trade Area (FTA) be moved in this direction.
Leaders of 26 African countries launched negotiations in June 2011 to establish a free trade area pulling together 3 regional economic areas: the Common Market for East & Southern Africa, the East African Community, and SADC, with a combined GDP of US$860-billion, and population of 590-million. The 1st phase of setting up the FTA comes into effect in 2 years. The next step aims to include West African countries. It is hoped the appointment of Cde Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to head the AU Commission, will help revitalise the continental body & foster a coherent vision.
A fresh strategic vision needs to be based on a scientific analysis of Africa`s political economy, to identify the required building blocks for a new growth & development path. The dominant features of the African political economy include:
- The deliberate entrenching by the former colonial powers, multinationals & comprador African rulers, of colonial economic patterns of extraction of Africa`s minerals, raw materials, & agricultural products;
- Related to this, the failure to develop a diversified industrial base, & the relatively small size, with few exceptions, of a developed industrial proletariat;
- The perseverance of pre-capitalist relations of production, & semi-feudal social relations, combined with the destruction of traditional forms of production, & the emergence of a large landless or semi-landless peasantry, with a tenuous hold on the countryside;
- The reliance by the majority of Africa`s working people, together with semi-subsistence agriculture, on informal employment, self-employment, & atypical forms of work, most of them underemployed, & struggling to survive;
- Combined with the resultant narrow fiscal base, the lack of a developed physical, social, & human development infrastructure, which is then a fetter on economic development. Physical infrastructure, including roads, port & other transport nodes, are focused on servicing colonial hubs, rather than internal development or trade in the region;
In the absence of the expanded reproduction of society`s economic base, the middle class, & emerging capitalists, rely disproportionately on accumulation via the state apparatus.
The Rise of Brics
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have constituted themselves into an alternative economic bloc, BRICS, who use their unity to contest space in multilateral institutions. These BRICS countries are expected to contribute one third of the world`s GDP increment in 2015, by which time their total economy will surpass America. Estimated on the basis of current market exchange rates, the BRICS grouping would make up about 22 per cent of the world economy
Lessons from the international situation
COSATU & the Alliance should make a strategic assessment of the possibilities opened up by the shift in the international balance of forces, implications for the international labour movement, & entire progressive forces, as well as lessons for the transformation project in South Africa. The Alliance should develop a joint document on how this dynamic international situation can be harnessed to intensify efforts to implement a second, more radical phase of the transition.
We need a focused series of engagements to draw on relevant experiences of other countries who have advanced an alternative agenda, particularly in Latin America; as well as engagement with our government & relevant multilateral institutions, to explore how the labour movement can play a more active role in the unfolding realignment of international affairs. In particular we should share lessons & experiences with our allies in BRICS, the G20, & regional institutions in Latin America & Africa.
We need to explore how countries are carving out a new economic policy agenda, given the growing policy space which has emerged. To examine policy instruments being used by countries in key areas such as monetary policy, financial regulation, industrial policy, & questions of strategic state ownership & control of the economy. Also, to focus on ways in which labour market, wage & income policies have been used, not to promote wage restraint, but to abolish working poverty, reduce inequality, increase social protection, & promote the growth of formal decent employment. Finally, to examine progressive responses to the challenge of incorporating youth into the mainstream economy, & combat youth unemployment.
Political lessons from the international situation include:
. Movements need to offer a coherent alternative in situations of crisis, as opposed to rehashing conservative socio-economic prescriptions. Otherwise people will look for political alternatives, including from the right wing;
. Parties & governments mobilising people around concrete interventions which make a real improvement in their lives have a greater impact. Political rhetoric without action leads to cynicism & demobilisation.
. Youth & other economically marginalised constituencies must be incorporated into a left national project. Spontaneous eruptions of political energy tend not to have a coherent strategic direction, & run out of steam or get hijacked by opportunistic elements.
. Bad alliances with parties which compromise workers will lead to unions eventually losing members. Further, mishandling of politics leads to splits in unions.
. Workers and unions need a strong progressive civil society, combined with a left government, to sustain a left project.
. New conditions need new organisational strategies by unions.
. The international trade union movement has a key role to play in forging a strategy to respond to the new international situation. Radicalisation of workers in the global North creates an opportunity to close the gaps which have existed with workers in the South. Progressive unions need to develop a strategy to build a joint platform for the international labour movement to respond to the new situation.
Part III: The Complex Political Environment post Polokwane
Challenges of political transformation
- This political report covers the period from December 2007 to July 2012.
- It has probably been the most dynamic and volatile 41/2 years in South African politics since the democratic breakthrough 18 years ago.
- This period began with a popular political revolt in the ANC Conference at Polokwane in December 2007
Significance of Polokwane
The Polokwane Conference represented nothing short of a revolt by ANC delegates against practices, policies, and a leadership, which had deviated from the movement`s historic policy perspectives, democratic organisational culture, & collective traditions. The outgoing leadership & organisational style was regarded as individualistic & elitist; abusive of government power; and having imposed inappropriate policies, which failed to take into account the views or needs of the people.
Organised workers, as ordinary members & leaders of ANC branches, played a leading role in this revolt. Delegates articulated views, which had long been advanced by COSATU, the Party, and many in the ANC, although these views had previously been suppressed, ridiculed, and vilified.
This report outlines the political, socio economic and international policy significance of Polokwane - see p 64
We recognise that the run-up to Polokwane, & the period beyond, also saw some negative features which were both a function of the destructive politics which went before it, & were to lay the basis for some new problems in the movement. These included:
. the growth of indiscipline, a culture of disrespect, & the entrenchment of slate politics;
. the phenomenon of the `walking wounded`, which united those who had in some way fallen foul of the previous leadership, including those who themselves had conducted politics in a problematic way, as well as those who had genuine objections to the way in which the movement was being misled. This resulted in a coalition not bound by shared principles, which inevitably would fracture as the different agendas of its components emerged.
- . The lack of a coherent programme to renew the movement, and address the destructive legacy of previous years. This meant that some of the problematic practices which the Polokwane revolt was aiming to overcome continued to characterise the movement
The complex political environment
We need to ask whether our defences were down at the 2009 Congress. In the aftermath of the post-Polokwane euphoria, the removal of the Mbeki administration, the improvement of Alliance relations, & the election of a new government on a progressive Manifesto, it seemed that the challenges of the previous period had been overcome, & that we were moving into a new era. Clearly, this misjudged the extent of contestation, & different agendas, both within the ANC & the State.
It soon became apparent that matters were not going according to plan. Operation ANC ibuyile was supposed to return the ANC back to members, and hold leadership to account, both in the organisation and in government.
The call at Polokwane was for the ANC, together with the Alliance, to reassert leadership of all processes of governance. But where does the power lie today? Luthuli House? Presidency? Treasury? The Executive? Parliament? The Alliance? The ANC is not on top of processes in government, & policy decisions continue to be made in an untransparent way, without the meaningful participation of the ANC, or Alliance. For example, some of the key policy debates referred to in this Report (such as the outcomes process, the new growth path, the national development plan etc.) weren`t debated in the structures of the ANC, let alone broader society, before being adopted. It had become apparent that elements of the pre-Polokwane order in the state & ANC, together with their allies amongst monopoly capital, were continuing to advance their agenda; & at the same time, the new predatory elite, together with their allies, were attempting to take control - both these powerful, and overlapping groupings, were therefore contesting progressive forces in the ANC, COSATU, Alliance & government genuinely trying to advance the Polokwane mandate.
This made for a highly contested & unstable political environment, in which our politics zigzagged wildly, depending on which forces had the upper hand at a given moment. Because there is no stable, agreed Alliance platform from which to proceed, this political environment has been particularly difficult for COSATU to navigate. We have had to embrace & encourage positive initiatives, no matter how limited they may sometimes be, at the same time as opposing a whole host of problematic agendas & practices, emerging from the state & the movement. Therefore it has been particularly important, to appreciate from a working class standpoint, the character of these different agendas, positive & negative, & how to position the working class at any point on key questions which affects their interests, & those of broader society.
COSATU`s challenge of internal political cohesion has in large part arisen from this complex terrain the organisation has had to navigate, in correct ly managing our relationship with government, the ANC, as well as the SACP. The ongoing challenge this posed has been the source of emerging tactical & strategic tensions in the Federation. We ignore this challenge to our internal cohesion, at our peril.
COSATU cannot afford to confront this watershed period, from a position of organisational & ideological incoherence. This would be a disaster for broader society, & in particular the working class, given the historical role COSATU has played, & continues to play.
An analysis of the state of affairs as it has unfolded over the last five years reveals the wildly zigzagging nature of the political situation we confront. The August 2010 COSATU CEC Discussion document on Alliance at a crossroads - battle against a Predatory elite and political paralysis, correctly painted a very gloomy picture of a fraught polit ical environment, in which the predatory elite, & the emergence of other negative tendencies was paralysing both government & the Alliance from taking forward the Polokwane mandate; & in which areas of progress were constantly being frustrated.
The discussion paper arrives at a number of conclusions: Firstly that, despite some important gains, we are far from achieving the bold vision set out by ANC Conference delegates in 2007. Indeed, we run the risk of moving even further away from that vision. Secondly that, if we don`t act decisively, we are heading rapidly in the direct ion of a full-blown predator state, in which a powerful corrupt elite increasingly controls the state as a vehicle for accumulat ion. Thirdly, the Alliance is facing political paralysis, which needs to be unblocked.
The paper argued that there had been 3 phases between Polokwane & when the paper was written in 2010 - the initial honeymoon period; then a mixed bag of contestation & zigzagging; followed by a period of limbo, leading to paralysis of the Alliance, & certain processes in government.
It further argued that from a class analysis, we are sitting with a paradigm of continuity, and change:
"Continuity, in that the 1996 class project was a long-term project which has rooted itself with concrete class interests in the State & society.
"Change, in that the relative prominence of a predator class, which relies on access to state levers for accumulation ... is growing by the day, in the most frightening way, with the Mittal deal and ICT consortium being the most prominent example of this. This could foreshadow a form of accommodation between these two centres of capital.
In the nearly 2 years since that discussion document described this environment, the picture has changed many times, positively & negatively, & often presents a mixed story. In April 2012 the CEC discussion paper Navigating a complex political terrain, updated this analysis, & argued that this unstable political environment remains a major challenge for COSATU in advancing its agenda.
It mentions on the positive side, at an Alliance level, an important ANC NGC in September 2010; & the constructive Alliance Summit in February 2011. During the same period negative elements include the ANC & SACP backlash against the COSATU-led civil society conference in October 2010; difficult Local government elections in May 2011; a degree of mishandling of local government candidate selection etc.
At the level of government, some economic policy shifts took place, with the announcement in 2012 of an important infrastructure development plan. We also saw some action against corruption & the predatory elite. But there were some problematic developments in government, including the release of a conservative NDP; ongoing conservative policies from Treasury; a number of problematic initiatives such as e-tolling, Protection of State Information Bill, some of the proposed amendments to the Labour Laws, etc. COSATU addressed these developments on their own merits: welcoming the positives, & opposing the negative interventions, particularly those with implications for our broad constituency.
COSATU`s actions and active engagement on a number of these issues played a key role in shifting the external political terrain in positive directions. However, COSATU`s actions not only made powerful forces in society uncomfortable; but also had an impact on internal cohesion in the Federation. Congress needs to analyse this phenomenon. Further, we need to consider how we continue to consolidate our impact on the broad political terrain, at the same time as consolidating our own organizational cohesion.
Key Political phases post Polokwane
This political report outlines 6 overlapping political phases, for the purposes of political analysis: pp69-73
The report identifies these phases as:
- Polokwane and the end of the Mbeki era
- The Alliance honeymoon
- Fight back & contestation
- Political paralysis
- New development strategy and defeat of the predatory elite
- The movement at a crossroads
The political report draws these conclusions from its analysis of the 6 phases:
Both the Alliance & the State are now highly contested. It has become clear that a major difference in the pattern of the political trajectory between the pre- & post- Polokwane era, is that of political zig zagging, and lurching between different political postures, whereas there was a much firmer (although reactionary) trajectory imposed from above by the previous leadership, at least in the State. This recent pattern of zigzagging characterises not only the Alliance, as during the Mbeki era, but also characterises developments in the State. It is apparent that the class basis & character of the State are undergoing rapid transformation, and that the working class is fighting a fierce battle for the soul of the ANC & the State. The progress registered at Polokwane, the NGC, and in the State on the five priorities, among others, will never be sustained unless the working class is able to exercise its hegemony.
We must not confuse the 1996 class project with the new tendency. The former were clear about their class agenda & followed this agenda with military precision. The difference is that with the current clique such ideological clarity is absent. The new tendency largely depends on demagogue zigzag political rhetoric in the most spectacular & unprincipled fashion & is hell bent on material gain, corruption & looting.
Politically, therefore the main tasks are to defend the ANC against attempts by these various interests to capture its soul; advance the resolutions that emerged in Polokwane; & support the leadership in taking this project forward. A failure to defend & advance this project, & the implosion of the ANC as a result of the machinations of the predatory elite, could be used by the liberal-right & capital in the country, not only to drive their agenda through the State, but also to mobilise more effectively for a change in the ruling party & reversal of those policies which are pro working class. Such a disastrous scenario will not be as much a failure of left policies, but rather a failure of the left to politically deal with & defeat the contestation by these various class forces for the soul of the ANC & the State.
The ANC leadership have committed a number of mistakes, which have undermined COSATU`s ability to effectively mobilise support of workers for the movement. Some actions by the ANC leadership have tended to discredit the movement, & have unnecessarily placed themselves in opposition to COSATU. Such errors have ranged from failures to take forward ANC & Alliance resolutions at the level of government; failure to decisively respond to issues effecting workers at local & national government level; refusal to consider COSATU views on important policies such as the militarisation of the police, & others; failure to respond effectively to calls by communities to ensure proper service delivery; & an insistence on retaining old, discredited economic policies.
On some occasions, the leadership have attacked the Federation without provocation. This has been worsened in certain instances, by inappropriate conduct, which has undermined the battle against ill discipline & corruption. All this conduct has given oxygen to the new class project to deepen & exploit divisions in the ANC & the Alliance. On the other hand, the type of decisive leadership demonstrated at the 2010 ANC NGC, showed how appropriate interventions can make it far more difficult for these class forces to manoeuvre.
Discussion point: What must COSATU do to defend the ANC and the working class against these class forces, and ensure that the leadership of the ANC advances the Polokwane mandate, and succeeds in its implementation? What can the ANC do to help COSATU promote these objectives?
The poisoned environment and the predatory elite
Attempts by the new tendency to seize control of the movement & state, as levers for personal accumulation have thrown the peoples project into a crisis
They use naked racism or tribalism, or radical sounding political rhetoric, whatever serves their cause best at a particular moment. Since some of these elements come from our ranks, they are aware of the weaknesses of the movement, how to foster divisions, & how to whip up popular sentiment. They associate their agenda with a political slate, to give it the veneer of respectability. They lack conscience about the fact that they are betraying their movement, & their communities; or that they are responsible for denying services, social grants, medicines, school books, to our people. In many ways they are a more difficult & dangerous enemy than our historical adversaries in the state & capital. They are willing to kill to achieve their criminal ends. They are poisoning the political environment.
At a national political level, politics of principle are being replaced by politics based on ambition & accumulation. There is a poisoned atmosphere of divisions & fast-forming cliques & cabals, innuendos, gossip, backstabbing, political & even physical assassinations
This is the moment of slate politics & the winner takes all philosophy, of sidelining talented individuals in favour of the weakest, because they are on the correct slate & so called progressive camp. These divisions have made us tolerant of mediocrity & we celebrate the lowering of standards, a time where double standards reign supreme!
Something is going wrong! The people we hate most today are not the enemy or white monopoly capital but one another. The people we spend more time talking ill about are not our class enemies or those opposed to our revolution but another comrade perceived to be on another slate & another clique. We use labels in an attempt to discredit those who hold a different view.
Unless we stand up we shall continue to go to funerals to bury comrades where the person suspected of engineering the killing is the very one delivering the keynote address in the funeral. We shall continue to count comrades who fall by the wayside after sustained campaigns to assassinate their character have succeeded in demobilising them, thus robbing our revolution of yet another cadre who should be making a contribution to building a better life for all.
The Demon of Tribalism The resurgence of tribalism, in our national politics, & in the labour movement, is a major cause for concern.
The toxic combination of primitive accumulation through abuse of state resources, tribalism, regionalism, and xenophobia, will destroy the liberation movement & the labour movement, if left unchecked.
Corruption and the Predatory Elite
Because of the frightening emergence of a powerful predator elite, abusing access to the state to accumulate wealth, the question of tackling corruption is a growing national priority. Corruption threatens to get out of hand. It is seemingly now more endemic than in any other period. Some argue that the media is full of stories on corruption because government is fighting & exposing corruption. There is some truth to this, but workers` concerns about growing corruption reflects society concerns. The seriousness of the extent to which it has infected our organisations, our polity, & society is shown by:
. Emergence of death squads in several provinces, linked to corruption, & murder of people who have taken a stand, or whistle blown;
. The open way prominent `business figures`, linked to top political leaders concoct illegitimate deals worth billions of rands deepen perceptions that there is blatant abuse of power;
. The extent to which factions are increasingly not about ideology or political differences, but about access to tenders.
Suggestions have been made that COSATU`s motives for raising the issue is to target political opponents. This is untrue. The fight against corruption has to target culprits regardless of political affiliations or ideologies. COSATU has tackled every person facing allegations of corruption without any regard to which factions they belong to.
Most members of the Alliance, like all South Africans are deeply concerned that corruption, particularly abuse of public office for private enrichment, is a cancer, threatening the foundations of our democracy. The overwhelming majority wants us to defeat the `grab what you can whilst you can` mentality.
Corruption is stealing from the poor. It must be fought wherever it occurs, in the public & private sectors. Not just as a moral crusade, but also an important political struggle to defend & deepen our democracy in the interests of workers & the poor. The majority of public representatives & senior officials are honest, dedicated servants of the public, not involved in any form of corruption. But for as long as a minority can get away with corrupt activities, it will undermine public confidence in all officials & the whole democratic system.
The politics of patronage is destroying the service ethic that characterised the movement for decades. It is a cancer eating slowly at all components of the mass democratic movement, from branch to national level.
Notwithstanding the work of government, a danger exists that if the current trajectory continues, the entire state & society will be auctioned to the highest bidder. Given that state procurement is on a massive scale (over R800 billion for infrastructure over 3 years), failure to deal with endemic corruption would create a huge challenge. Corruption covers a range of activities in society, but the most dangerous is the systematic abuse of access to state power & political contacts, to accumulate capital illegally or immorally. This includes abuse of political influence to corrupt state tenders & procurement processes, and illegitimately win contracts; & abuse of political access or manipulation of BEE provisions to manufacture illegitimate business `deals` (e.g. Arcelor Mittal, AMSA, and ICT) etc.
All these practices have in common the systemic creation of a network of patronage & corruption- over time no-one will be able to do business with the state, without going through corrupt gatekeepers, who don`t merely demand bribes, but leverage their power to control large chunks of the economy. Once this becomes the norm, we will have become a predator state.
Contestation in the State
Intense contestation has developed in the state post Polokwane. This is an important reason for the political zigzagging, during this period. The core focus of this contestation is around economic policy.
In late 2010 COSATU audited economic policy developments post Polokwane. We summarise & update the conclusions below.
Economic policy contestation in government has seen inter alia:
Initial blocking of agreement on a New Growth Path proposal
The failure to clarify & legislate the mandate of the Economic Development Department, entrenching the de facto control of economic policy by Treasury
Attempts by the Minister for the National Planning Commission to usurp the function of economic planning, & to assert overall control of government policy, through the Planning Green Paper- both by COSATU`s opposition, & opposition within the state. Nevertheless a conservative draft NDP is released in November 2011, & an even more problematic final NDP in August 2012;
The half-hearted implementation by government departments of the farreaching Framework Agreement in response to the economic crisis;
The attempt by Treasury to develop a new macroeconomic policy, & assert control over economic policy co-ordination, including through controlling allocation of resources to new policy areas;
The failure to realign the Reserve Bank`s mandate in line with the approach contained in the 2009 ANC Elections Manifesto, despite the devastating impact of contractionary monetary policy on the economy;
The promotion by Presidency of an outcomes approach containing conservative economic policy perspectives. ;
The proposed introduction of a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) process which would vet all laws and policies based on the regulatory burden they place on business;
The introduction by Treasury of the wage subsidy proposals, which, together with other reforms proposed by Treasury, including exemptions from collective agreements, would further entrench the dual labour market, if accepted;
Progressive Ministers struggle to assert the new Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2), New Growth Path, rural development agenda, National Health Insurance (NHI), social protection policies etc., in the face of Treasury`s obstructionism
The welcome introduction of IPAP2, but concerns that inadequate resources were being released for it. Further, that it would not have the policy instruments it required to succeed, in the absence of an overarching shift in the macro economic framework.
Part IV: How COSATU has dealt with these political challenges
Our political framework
The 2011 Central Committee & August 2011 CEC, adopted an overarching political framework for the Federation. The resolution on the NDR stated:
"Our task in the current conjuncture is to defend the ANC 52nd National Conference progressive resolutions & ensure that we embark on a series of campaigns to ensure their effective implementation. The political task of the working class in this conjuncture is to defend the leadership collective elected in this conference against those who have from inception launched campaigns to put this leadership on the back foot & who have undermined their authority.
"Our task is to work with government to realise the common objectives summarised in the ANC elections manifesto of 2009, & ensure that the programme of decent work is taken forward. We want the government to succeed on its five priorities because we know their failure will spell disaster for the working class.
"We will do so not by becoming uncritical supporters of both the ANC & government leadership. We shall at all times engage strategically with the ANC to ensure that it builds capacity & has the necessary confidence to act decisively to lead the Alliance & society. At the same time, when the leadership allows paralysis & lack of confidence in our movement, we shall, in a principled fashion, speak out & embark on campaigns to ensure that the revolution stays on track. We shall at all times engage the ANC leadership on our concerns so that they may appreciate why we have chosen to embark on such campaigns."
Therefore the political mandate contains the following six elements of consensus:
We need to defend the Polokwane progressive policy framework, & Manifesto undertakings, & build on these as a basis to make further advances;
In engaging with the ANC leadership on this political platform, we need to be constructive but critical, & refuse to allow political paralysis. We need to ensure that they help us to help them;
The new tendency of tenderpreneurs represent a serious threat to the revolution, & must be isolated and exposed;
We need to defend the ANC`s leadership collective elected at Polokwane, against the new tendency attempting to destabilise it put it on the back foot;
It is premature to engage in succession debates, as this distracts us from the primary political tasks of taking forward our transformation mandate. We will encourage our members to assess the leadership of all Alliance formations, at the right time;
We need to continue to engage from a working class perspective, unapologetically pursue our class struggle, & continue to analyse our political challenges based on material realities which confront us, rather than a narrow commitment to any grouping or leader.
Political posture of the Federation
"We want the government to succeed on its five priorities because we know their failure will spell disaster for the working class. We will do so not by becoming uncritical supporters of both the ANC & government leadership. We shall at all times engage strategically with the ANC to ensure that it builds capacity & has the necessary confidence to act decisively to lead the Alliance and society. At the same time, when the leadership allows paralysis & lack of confidence in our movement, we shall, in a principled fashion, speak out and embark on campaigns to ensure that the revolution stays on track...
Articulation of COSATU positions in opposition to the government or even other components of the Alliance policy positions should not be seen as public spats. It also does not take away the right & responsibility of comrades to engage robustly on any political question as they try to find answers to the burning questions of our society. This articulation should happen in a manner that seeks to build consensus & unity of the Alliance & should not degenerate into name calling and labelling." COSATU CC resolution adopted by August 2011 CEC
The political posture of COSATU has aimed to reflect its political mandate, & organisational traditions: steadfastly advancing a progressive agenda, together with its Alliance partners; through engagement with government, & other sites of power; outspoken & firm on issues of principle; flexible in terms of using a range of instruments & approaches to advance workers interests, including through social dialogue, building social coalitions, court battles, etc; militantly mobilising its members to defend their interests; constructive, yet critical & independent; accountable to its membership.
This combination of approaches, however, has ruffled feathers amongst the right, the ultra left, business, government, elements in the Alliance, & amongst some within our own ranks. Principled & militant pursuit of one`s policies can put you on a collision course with your allies. The criticism has been made, by some in the ANC, & others in the Alliance, that our posture is too oppositional, & negative. This criticism revolves around our stance towards government, & the ANC. Further, concern has been raised about our public posture, with a sense that we should be raising these issues internally.
An examination of the record of COSATU`S engagement with government & the ANC doesn`t bear out the criticism that COSATU has been oppositional in its stance. Both at a public level, & in terms of our internal engagements, we have pursued the approach of both support and criticism. The posture of the Federation in relation to the ANC over the last 5 years has been to-
- reinforce Polokwane: we have consistently supported the ANC where it is taking forward this mandate, & criticised it where it is failing to do so;
- support the combating of tenderpreneurs & corruption: together with the Alliance leadership we have identified this as a serious problem ;
- Advance a progressive agenda on issues of principle, such as, decent work & economic policy, fighting inequality, corruption etc.
It is sobering to consider what critics of COSATU`s allegedly `oppositional` political stance would want COSATU to do, & what would the opposite of oppositional be? Would they expect COSATU to passively toe the line of the leader of the Alliance, as we were told to do under President Mbeki? This is a recipe for a sycophantic, or lapdog, Federation, which would discredit itself amongst workers.
In our bilateral with the ANC in March 2012, the COSATU memo turned the issue on its head, and asked whether it was not elements in the ANC & government who were being `oppositional` in their posture, since they were opposing the popular mandate. "What worries us as COSATU is that the policy content of the ANC-led government is actually oppositional to some of the historic demands of the NDR. Many of the contentious policies that COSATU so vehemently opposes are actually taken from the DA!"
Tactics and strategies
There is a clear relationship between the ongoing political challenges facing the Federation, & the internal challenge of organisational cohesion it is facing.
Emerging differences on strategy & tactics appear to arise, to a greater or lesser extent, from different perspectives on:
- The character of, & dynamics in, the current government, the ANC, and the SACP, & how COSATU should relate to these;
- What tone & posture COSATU should adopt in its political engagements, both at the public level, & internally, with our allies;
- The character & role of a revolutionary trade union movement in this period, & its relationship to the liberation movement &working class party;
- What social forces constitute our strategic opponents, & strategic allies;
- The role of coalition politics in building working class hegemony in society.
Debates raised by our allies, & in the Federation, about the Federation`s posture, precisely relates to this strategic & tactical assessment of what should be the appropriate response, on the many & complex issues the Federation has to deal with.
This is why it would make no sense for COSATU to either adopt a purely oppositional stance or an uncritically supportive approach to government, or the ANC. We need to engage with key issues on their own merits. Sometimes, tactical & strategic judgement calls may differ, depending on comrades` interpretation of the implications of different issues. Thus it is crucial for the leadership collective to thoroughly debate its assessment, on the merits of any issue, of the stance we need to adopt, & then stick to the decisions we take, no matter how politically uncomfortable it may make some of our allies feel. It also means that our analysis needs to be ongoing & dynamic as, given the fluidity of our politics, the situation is constantly changing.
Building unity in COSATU
The 2011 discussion paper Building Political Unity discussed the challenges to internal unity in COSATU. While the February 2012 CEC stated that there have been some improvements since then, serious challenges remain. Some of the challenges relate to genuine political differences on strategy & tactics. However, we are also seeing deliberate undermining of organisational processes. The April 2012 CEC discussion paper Navigating a complex political terrain argued that if such conduct is not arrested, it could lead to divisions, & ultimately organisational splits.
While we are far from this point, there is no room for complacency. As our political paper to the 2005 CC argued, based on international examples, to avoid splits we have to open the space for debates & let comrades confront each other politically.
Respect for democratic processes of the organisation is a non-negotiable. In order to deepen our culture of respect for worker democracy which is so central to the character of COSATU, there needs to be ongoing political engagement on organisational processes, aimed at ensuring that:
When constitutional structures take decisions, there is clarity on the implications of those decisions, particularly in relation to controversial questions of their national political implications;
There is an understanding that all are bound to defend and adhere to such democratically taken decisions, regardless of the position they took in the debate;
No external organisational mandates or influences, whether open or hidden, should be used to undermine internal democratic processes. We derive our mandate from our members. Engagement with our allies, & other forces, must primarily be through formal engagements;
Organisational procedures, & ultimately sanctions are put in place, to deal with those violating our democratic processes.
The media, & our relationship to it, have also played a critical role in our difficulties.
Leadership of both Federation & affiliates need to check carefully what they say in their public statements. It has become increasingly difficult to defend us from headlines that seek to present us as a divided house. All reports link these divisions to different relationships with the ANC & SACP leadership. There is exaggeration in some reports, but there is also a level of reality, substantiated not least of all by statements of some affiliates themselves, some of which are issued prior to any internal engagement.
It is easy for political temperatures to get out of control in such circumstances. We need to keep cool heads in dealing with these, & related matters; otherwise we may end up deepening the problem, & playing into the hands of those who want to divide COSATU.
The COSATU leadership, collective, particularly the President and General Secretary, have a special responsibility to address these challenges
The November 2011 CEC discussion paper on Building unity raised the need for an organisational protocol, including on:
- How to encourage expression of a diversity of views, and openness and honesty in discussions. Specifically, to encourage articulation of strategic and tactical differences;
- How to combat practices undermining tolerance of diverse views, such as pigeonholing and caricaturing comrades holding different positions;
- How to allow comrades the space to confront suspicions about hidden agendas, without promoting factional or destructive conduct;
- How to discourage demagoguery of whatever variety;
- How to combat tribalism, factionalism, slate politics & other backward practices, which substitute gutter politics for the politics of principle.
Leadership contestation in COSATU
Affiliates went to the Tenth Congress in 2009 determined to avoid leadership contests that would reopen the healing wounds left by the bitter 2006 9th Congress. Unions managed their disagreements on tactical & strategic matters, & on the election of national office bearers with a high degree of maturity. Unlike in 2006 we did not see tribal and regional mobilisation, posters, divisive songs, negative posturing, or affiliate blocks. The Congress delegates and the CEC must be commended for this. This is what is called a matured dynamism.
It is hoped & assumed that the same level of maturity will be displayed in the 11th National Congress.
COSATU and the balance between politics, organisation and economics
There should be no debate about the need for COSATU to be involved in politics. It is in the DNA of the Federation, as a revolutionary trade union movement. However there is a case to be made that too much of COSATU`s energy & time is being absorbed in politics, & particularly in `palace politics`, around ANC leadership contestation. This has a number of consequences:
- The central work of COSATU on socio-economic, industry & workplace issues tends to suffer;
- This undermines the organisational base & focus of COSATU on its core functions of addressing workers bread & butter needs, and weakens our ability to deliver real sustainable benefits to workers on the scale we should be doing;
- The issues dividing the organisation tend to be around issues of political contestation, & therefore a one-sided focus weakens the power of COSATU;
- Narrow political struggles also tend to obscure the Federations broader political strategy.
Question for discussion: do we agree with the assessment that there is currently an imbalance in our work? If so, how do we concretely address this imbalance?
The organisational and ideological character of COSATU
"A trade union is the prime mass organisation of the working class. To fulfil its purpose, it must be as broad as possible & fight to maintain its legal status. It must attempt, in the first place, to unite, on an industrial basis, all workers (at whatever level of political consciousness) who understand the elementary need to come together and defend and advance their economic conditions. It cannot demand more as a condition of membership. But because the state & its political & repressive apparatus is an instrument of the dominant economic classes, it is impossible for trade unions in any part of the world to keep out of the broader political conflict." (Joe Slovo, The SA Working Class & the NDR, 1988)
Just because workers are experiencing frustrations with political movements does not mean that it would be appropriate to transform the Federation into a vanguard working class organisation or party. Classics of Marxism are clear on the fact that a trade union has a distinct character, which separates it from workers parties. One cannot substitute for the other. This also applies to a revolutionary Federation, which is highly politicised, but nevertheless constrained by the inherent characteristics of a trade union, which limit its ability to be a tight political formation.
Question for discussion: how do we combine the development of working class consciousness & ideology, with the inherent open & diverse character of trade unions, in a way, which promotes workers unity, but also more advanced working class consciousness?
The Battle against Corruption and the Predatory Elite
COSATU has been pushing consistently for decisive steps to be taken, particularly by our allies & government, to act against various corrupt practices, & to implement measures agreed at Polokwane. We have also argued that additional measures should be considered to address the scale of the challenge the country is facing
The August 2010 CEC decided on the following focus around corruption:
. Massive intensification of the anti-corruption campaign. We need to go beyond moral condemnation, & deal with the systemic issues, which are reproducing corruption. To do this we need a far-reaching programme to fight this cancer. Fighting the scourge of corruption requires clear leadership. We must develop a programme with civil society & our allies, & host a Summit with a broad range of society. We need to put the predatory elite on back foot. We need to strike a strategic blow against the elite- e.g. by reversing, or taking legal action against the Mittal deal. We need to commission serious research on the nature of the problem. Action against corruption must be incorporated into our Section 77 demands at Nedlac.
. Building a powerful anti-corruption institution of civil society with the capacity to conduct preliminary investigations, & process these with the relevant authorities. This decision was implemented, with the launch of Corruption Watch in 2012 (See Organisational Report ).
. We should commission research on the size & character of this new elite; their connections to the state; their relationship to different factions in the ANC; their relationship to elements of big capital; & their relationship to foreign business and governments.
. A coalition of civil society organisations, responding to COSATU`s invitation to engage with us in the run-up to Congress, have requested that we take the matter of party funding forward. They request that we propose at the ANC National Conference the importance of "expediting the comprehensive regulation of transparent & democratically accountable party political funding... (&) the establishment early in the first term of the 2013 Parliamentary session of a multi-party Parliamentary committee to consider public submissions on a comprehensive regulatory framework that enhances and protects democratic participation, transparency & accountability in political party funding". Congress should consider supporting this proposal.
Engaging with government departments
In line with our overall strategy of not putting all our eggs in the Alliance basket, we have ensured that we build stronger & privileged relationships with Ministers & Departments that will play a critical role in transformation, & in particular the decent work agenda
The relationship with government departments has improved as a result of the 2007 change of political scenery. We have scaled up our interaction & engagement with various government departments. We have also used the platform of the CEC to open up space for a more detailed interaction between the government departments, & COSATU & her affiliates.
Part V: COSATU and the Alliance
Key strategic debates
Discussion Point: We have not won the demand that the Alliance be a political centre or that the Alliance must develop a strategic Pact that will institutionalise working class power. The 2011 agreement on the programme of action has not sufficiently transformed the relationships to meet our demands. We continue to experience the problem of agreed ANC & Alliance positions not being implemented by government. Our Alliance Pact document proposed the need for a Protocol to govern the Alliance`s interaction with government. It also mooted the creation of a COSATUPresidency channel, which would meet on a regular basis. We propose above the need to engage on a comprehensive national agreement. How do we break the political deadlock?
Discussion point: Should COSATU propose a framework for deployment, possibly as part of the governance protocol, for adoption by the Alliance, to combat abuse, identify key strategic posts, which require attention, and mechanisms to ensure accountability of deployees?
Unblocking paralysis: The question of leadership
In this year of the Mangaung Conference, there is naturally a major focus on questions relating to leadership in the ANC. For COSATU, this has three major elements:
- What role, if any, COSATU leaders should play in the ANC NEC & other leadership structures;
- Discussion on the ANC leadership composition & criteria for assessment of leaders;
- Whether COSATU should support or propose candidates for the top 6 and/or NEC.
Proposals to improve representivity of ANC leadership & criteria for assessment of leaders:
The Discussion paper on the Leadership Challenge tabled at the 4th COSATU Central Committee in 2007, proposed a package of measures aimed at ensuring a more balanced ANC leadership collective, with progressive orientation, & greater working class representation. It proposed a framework to ensure working class leadership; & a limit on the representation of certain interest groups, particularly cabinet members and big business. It also contained criteria by which leaders should be assessed.
It makes the important statement that "Before we can even begin to think about individuals, workers should go back to lead the ANC. Before emotions take their toll on all of us & before we get trapped into pro this and anti that caucus, we must agree on the framework & criteria for electing leadership." This statement remains as valid today as it was then.
The COSATU leadership document proposes:
Five criteria to assess leadership- Commitment to a radical NDR & thoroughgoing transformation; Proven commitment to the Alliance; Commitment to make this decade truly a decade of workers and the poor; Commitment to the unity of the ANC & the democratic movement; & Internationalism.
The need for measures to ensure greater working class leadership in ANC structures, given that "the working class has been displaced in the leading structures of the ANC", which also proposes extending the quota to ensure that the demographics & class composition of the membership is broadly reflected in leadership structures;
The need for measures to limit the over representation of business people, bureaucrats & government ministers in these structures. Will the proposal to reduce the size of the NEC unintentionally worsen this problem?
Other alternatives were: to have a bloc of seats allocated to COSATU leadership; or
To have the entire ANC leadership collective election process subjected to rigorous criteria to ensure representivity, as is currently done with gender requirements.
No significant advances have been made in realising this package of proposals on leadership. The ANC 2012 Organisational renewal document focuses mainly on arresting problematic practices such as the use of election slates, vote-buying etc, & how to combat abuses.
It doesn`t address the question of improving the representivity of leadership structures. The NEC has used its powers of cooption in this past term to address the obvious weaknesses. However, this is an ad hoc mechanism which can be deployed at will. A clear policy framework is still required. We should consider engaging in a discussion on this matter at the Alliance Political Council, before the ANC Conference takes place.
Role of COSATU leaders in the ANC NEC: This year the ANC President made a strong call for COSATU leaders to make themselves available to sit in the ANC leadership structures. This call is in line with COSATU policy. The reason why the call made news is that it was personalised around the COSATU General Secretary who had refused to stand for positions of both the ANC and SACP in the past, & had declined to serve in the Cabinet. But the motivation for the call is that if worker leaders don`t participate in the NEC, they won`t have the opportunity to influence its direction.
This is why COSATU has long been urging its members & leaders to swell the ranks of the ANC & SACP. Further, this will help to redress the current imbalance, where very few working class leaders sit in the NEC.
On the other hand, an equally strong case has been made that if COSATU leaders, particularly National Office Bearers, but also other members of the CEC, sit on the NEC, the lines of accountability & mandates will be compromised, particularly when the two organisations` leadership collectives decide on different policy approaches. This could cause serious confusion & undermine the legitimacy of those leaders amongst workers.
Therefore we need to debate policy options, which seek to maximise the benefit of COSATU leaders participation in the NEC; but minimise the problems of confusion of mandates. The quota option, which has been floated by the September Commission & the COSATU 2007 paper on the Leadership Challenge, as well as the Political Committee of the ANC in 2006, could achieve these twin objectives. In this option, NOBs of COSATU would not make themselves available for elections to the NEC, as ordinary members. Rather a quota (a number of at least four had been suggested by the ANC political committee) would be set aside for direct representation of COSATU leadership. COSATU would need to determine who its representatives are. They would then sit ex officio on the NEC, and would be subject to recall by the COSATU CEC. This would not prevent other trade unionists being elected to the NEC through normal ANC processes. The ANC Political Committee suggested that a similar approach could be followed in Provinces, and at REC level.
COSATU`s September Commission considered the quota idea as a proposition arising from the ANC Lekgotla in 1997, & responded positively to it. The September Commission stated "These measures will enable COSATU to participate in ANC deliberations before they are concluded, rather than being consulted after decisions have been made."
Issues for debate
Points for discussion:
1. Should the Congress support the introduction of a formal proposal to promote
- The quota approach of setting aside seats for COSATU in the NEC, PEC, etc
- A proposal for a leadership framework to the Alliance
2. How should we approach the 2012 ANC Conference, and promote a NEC, which is progressive in content, & representative in composition?
3. Should we endorse the decision not to support specific candidates?
ANC Policy conference June 2012
The June 2012 Policy Conference reflected two things. Firstly, the major organisational challenges the ANC is facing, & the extent to which its Provincial leadership is divided and compromised. But secondly the growing radicalism & militancy of the ANC membership, and the demand for a change in policies coming from the ground.
Swelling of the Ranks
- DISCUSSION POINT
How do we succeed in this strategy in light of our experiences to date? More importantly how could we ensure an effective implementation and monitoring of the strategy moving forward?
Developments in the Alliance
See Report pp 108-121
The Alliance at provincial level
The provincial reports indicate with important variances, that the Alliance has not functioned ideally in the provinces over the last few years. In a few cases there has been open hostility between Alliance formations.
Common features reported are as follows:-
Where Alliance Summits have been held, & programmes adopted, there has not been much focus on implementation.
Most COSATU Provinces report that there are few Alliance meetings outside of Alliance Summits, election activities, & Alliance Deployment Committees . COSATU Mpumalanga has been dismissed from the Deployment Committee, together with the SACP. Western Cape states: "It is still not able to function optimally, even though there are good relations at a personal level, it does not translate into a clear protocol of meetings & the definition of a clear programme of action".
Relations between COSATU & Alliance partners at a local level are almost non existent - relating to the organisational weaknesses of Alliance partners at a local level (especially the SACP and SANCO)
COSATU & the SACP
After a successful bilateral the CEC agreed on a detailed programme to build a joint platform with the Party see report pp 115-119
Discussion Points: Is the platform adequate? How do we ensure the Party is properly resourced & capacitated, & that deployment of Party cadres into various centres of power doesn`t compromise the effectiveness of the SACP? How can COSATU help to overcome current political differences with the Party?
Part VI: Progressive civil society
Our youth are not immune to the impacts of global neo-liberalism. Not only are prospects of employment limited by South Africa`s high levels of structural unemployment, but jobs are becoming increasingly precarious. The challenge of youth unemployment is addressed in the Socio-Economic Report.
This section looks at the political response of our youth to the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty & inequality. The 2 youth formations of our allies - the ANCYL & the YCL - exist in a world where the increasing marginalisation of youth in the economy has resulted in growing levels of discontent & radicalism. Expressions of high levels of youth discontent have burst out worldwide in the form of the "Arab spring" in North Africa, the 2011 riots in London, & at home, in frequent local protests around service delivery. A seeming contradiction to these high levels of youth discontent is the world-wide phenomenon of youth disillusionment or disinterest in formal politics. This creates challenges for political youth formations such as the ANCYL & the YCL.
Discussion Point: How does the working class movement provide leadership to the progressive youth movement & win the best of this generation to the banner of socialism? To what extent does the ANCYL`s double speak arise from its character as a multi-class youth wing of the ANC? To what extent does the ANCYL`s economic radicalism stem from the strength of the black working class youth in the organisation? How can the task of building a radical youth movement be connected to the task of building the SACP`s capacity to engage in class struggle & weave various struggles against neo-liberalism into a concerted struggle against capitalism in all its forms?
Working with civil society
Successive COSATU National Congresses have committed the Federation to work closely with progressive civil society - womens, rural and youth organisations, social movements, NGOs, progressive academics, small business & street vendor associations, taxi associations, religious bodies, environmental groups, indigenous peoples` groups & other progressive formations.
Informed by this, COSATU has worked consistently with many such organisations over many years on a wide range of issues. (See list).
Areas of cooperation have included joint campaigns on the World Trade Organisation, HIV/AIDS, the Basic Income Grant, the Peoples Budget and international solidarity campaigns.
In addition we have convened two major civil society conferences to broaden the jobs & poverty campaign & on 27-28 October 2010 organised a Civil Society Conference attended by close to 60 community based organisations, NGOs & the MDM, including SANCO, to take forward the 2010 post-World Cup Declaration.The Conference focused on three main areas :
Economic Development and the New Growth Path
Advancing rights to health and education
Local government elections
The 2011 Local Government elections campaign were the most difficult and contested election ever held. The people are more directly in contact with government at the municipal level and thus all the inherited experience of unequal social and economic opportunities, inferior social and economic infrastructure, mass unemployment and poverty play themselves out at this level, in municipalities. We have seen sporadic service delivery protests spiralling in a number of municipalities across the country.
Apart from developing a local government manifesto, deploying cadres into local government and campaigning to win local government elections, the Alliance needs to do more to confront the glaring constitutional, legislative, political, administrative and service delivery crisis of our emerging local government system and turn the tide in order to build a developmental local government.
Service delivery and community protest action
In 2004/05 there were 7,382 peaceful incidents reported, and 622 unrest incidents. By 2011/12 the figures had risen to 9,942 peaceful incidents and 1,091 unrest incidents. Unrest incidents rose from 1.7 day in 2004/05 to 3 a day in 2011/12. This represents a very high level of ongoing, largely urban unrest which is not currently matched anywhere else in the world. Hence the label of "rebellion of the poor" given to these events by UJ academic activist Peter Alexander, who has been researching the phenomenon for some years
Frustration was the common thread, with all the indications being that even where local councillors had the will to resolve local grievances, they lacked the resources to do so. Where destruction of property occurred, the common explanation of protestors in the research went along the lines of: "It is the smoke that calls....the Premier will come when he sees the smoke, but not before then."
The results of the 2012 COSATU Workers` Survey show that 25% of the COSATU members surveyed participated in service delivery protests in the past four years. Amongst the workers who say they participated in protest action, the most commonly cited reasons related to the availability, quality and cost of electricity, water and housing. Corrupt councillors and city officials ranked fourth, and crime and poor policing fifth. Around 3% of workers say they joined protests against foreigners (see the section on Migration and Xenophobia).
We owe it to the memory of Andries Tatane who was beaten and shot to death by police in Ficksburg on 13 April 2011 to do the following:-
- At a local level, to provide leadership and support in the community protests that are erupting with greater and greater frequency
- To ensure that our national engagements on service delivery and poverty alleviation, whether in Nedlac or elsewhere, are informed by the real experiences of working class communities
- To deepen and broaden our campaign for jobs and against inequality
- To continue to demand a greater allocation of resources to local government
- To continue to engage the ANC and government on strategies to improve local government accountability and delivery
To the best of our ability, we have attempted to summarise the key political events of the past three to four years into these rather long pages. This reflects in most respects the views not of the individual presenting this report but the collective that has steered the ship through a very complex and political challenging terrain. Any reader will attest to the complexity of the political situation we are trying to capture. The report is unavoidably detailed but it is a report of a formation serious about transformation and the revolution.
This is what the federation has been about. This is what we stand for. This is what we will always be about.