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COSATU Today | COSATU Speeches
Address by COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini, at the SADTU National General Council held from the 25th - 27th October at Premier Hotel, OR Tambo, Kempton Park
25 October 2013 The 1st Deputy President of SADTU who is current the acting President The National Office Bearers of SADTU The entire leadership of SADTU from various levels of the organisation The leadership of the federation present here today The Alliance leadership present Comrades delegates, you have who refused to bow to pressure when others were arguing that SADTU should just be a professional association and you said we want SADTU to be a trade union because you defined yourselves as workers and today you have build this union into colossal fortress to which teachers run when they are under attack.
It is you who have built SADTU into an organisation which represents an intellectual reservoir where revolutionary ideas for the transformation of education are generated.
It is you the members who have made both our enemies and foes alike to envy this great organisation which is decorated with stripes of sustainable victories. Thank you for building SADTU into a real and complete revolutionary and a militant non-compromising union.
You must continue to protect this organisation from any threat which may be coming from anywhere, even from within; you must continue to build this organisation into an organisation that is known for its consistency to defend its founding principles and its respect for the principles of our movement and the revolution as a whole.
The COSATU Central Executive Committee said I must tell you and assure you that your federation COSATU is alive. The challenges we are going trough are a sign that we are now ascending to the next higher level of maturity where the organisation will not be centred on individuals but on its own principles, traditions and policies.
We want to tell you right from the onset that COSATU will not split. You must know that we will defend COSATU from both organisational and ideological threats, whether such threats are coming from outside or from within our own ranks. We will do so not out of hatred or malice but out of conviction of our own principles, policies and traditions. When we do so, we will not go to the television, to the print media or even to the social media. We will confront issues inside the organisation finalise them and come out united to confront our primary enemy and our primary enemy is not the ANC or the SACP, as it is being projected from some quarters inside the federation but the principal enemy of our revolution is monopoly-capital and white-monopoly-capital in particular. These constitute the real South African ruling class.
The power of this ruling class is rooted in its ownership and control of the basic means of production. The mines, the banks and major industries such as forestry, petroleum, steel and large segments of the wholesale and retail sector, are dominated by monopolies.
The dominant ideological expression of the enemy class is neo-liberalism. This ideological expression cannot be pigeon-holed in this or that political party, but requires a more nuanced analysis. The function of the neo-liberals is to protect the interests of white monopoly capitalism and imperialism. By de-regulating labour markets they seek to increase the rate of exploitation of the working class. By de-regulating financial markets they ensure that monopoly capitalists can take profits in and out of the country at will. By liberalising trade they facilitate the integration of the South African economy into the global chains of production, which limit the capacity of the country to industrialise.
We characterise this force as the enemy because it is in its direct material interest to keep the vast majority exploited, marginalised from owning the means of production, oppressed and dominated. These days it has become important that we clarify ourselves about who our enemy so that we can be able to develop appropriate strategies to engage the enemy and advance our course without wrongly seeing an enemy where there such does not exist. We will return to this point later.
Comrades this meeting is taking place at a time when the world economic crisis remains stubborn and deepening, particularly in the so called developed countries and the working class is being pushed deeper and deeper into misery. As this happens, and right at the peak of the crisis, capital continues to push the burden on to the working class as a way of saving the capitalist system from its crisis, whilst they create better conditions for themselves to accumulate.
Research shows that at the global level, the number of unemployed people will continue to increase unless policies change course. Global unemployment is expected to approach 208 million in 2015, compared with slightly over 200 million.
Research also shows that key labour market weaknesses that preceded the crisis have remained acute or worsened, even in high-growth economies. For example, over the past 5 years, the incidence of long-term unemployment which is the share of unemployed persons out of work for 12 months or more has increased in 60 per cent of the advanced and developing economies.
Many workers have become discouraged and are no longer actively looking for a job. Labour force participation rates decreased between 2007 and 2012 in more than half of the countries analysed. In simple terms more and more people in the world have come to a conclusion that capitalism cannot provide solutions to both their short-term and long-terms needs. People have seen Capitalism for what it really is and we have a responsibility to continue exposing this evil system.
Just yesterday we learnt that even as the wages of working people sink, the incomes of the super-rich continue to soar, buttressed by a surging stock market driven by massive cash infusions from the Federal Reserve Bank. At the peak of the economic crisis we learn that the top ten highest-paid CEOs in the United States each received $100 million in 2012, according to a survey by GMI Ratings. Two chief executives each received over $1 billion, and the combined pay of the top ten CEOs was $4.7 billion.
We learn that in the US during the economic crisis, the 400 richest people increased their wealth by 17 per cent in 2013, their collective wealth rising from $1.7 trillion to just over $2 trillion. The wealth of these 400 individuals is more than twice the amount necessary to cover the federal budget deficit, which is being used as the justification for slashing food stamps, education, housing assistance, and health care programs.
This is over and above what we read they received last year - when governments throughout the world were closing schools, laying off workers and slashing support to the poor, old and sick, the financial oligarchy that rules the world increased its wealth and power. The incomes of the top-earning bank CEOs grew 12 percent last year, according to an analysis of the 15 largest global banks conducted by pay research group Equilar. These executives received an average of $12.8 million apiece, even though the stock values, earnings, and profits of most of the banks shrank.
The fact of the matter is that governments across the globe have bailed out these banks to the tune of trillions of dollars. They have massively subsidized these giant, privately-owned financial institutions using tax payers` money, and they stand ready to rescue them again if and when necessary.
Even this year we received another report showing that the top 100 richest people controlled an aggregate $1.9 trillion as calculated by the prices on world stock markets December 31, for an average of nearly $20 billion apiece. If the top 100 were a separate state, their combined wealth would outstrip the gross domestic product of all but eight countries. They would rank behind Italy, but ahead of India and Russia. Of course, being billionaire capitalists, the top 100 don`t actually produce anything. They own, and they reap the benefits of the labour of others.
What is even worse is that the rich do not invest in their countries` economies but channel their wealth and hide it in tax havens, such as in the Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Liechtenstein and Bermuda, with the British Virgin Islands described as the "epicentre" of the hidden wealth industry.
We know that the ultra-wealthy, banks and corporations from around the globe have some $32 trillion US dollars of wealth hidden in off-shore tax havens. This hidden wealth, consisting mostly of financial assets and bank accounts but also including assets like mansions and yachts, amounts to 44 percent of world GDP, or $4,600 for every person on earth. This is a similar story in our own country that business is refusing to invest and hiding away about R1, 3 trillion.
Compare this with the reality faced by the working people of the world, where research shows that more than 24 percent of Europe`s population, 121 million people, were living at risk of poverty and it is predicted that the number could rise by up to 25 million by 2025 unless austerity policies are scrapped and an alternative course set.
The world is confronted with the reality that currently 165 million children globally are chronically malnourished. This preventable condition has affected one in every four children at some point in their lives.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for 2.3 million children per year, an average of one death every 15 seconds. Research shows that 38 percent of children from the least developed countries have had their growth stunted by malnutrition. Malnourished children score 7 percent lower on maths tests and are 19 percent less likely to be able to read by age eight. The poorest 40 percent are 2.8 times more likely to suffer long-term effects of malnutrition than the richest 10 percent.
Beyond cognitive problems, other consequences of child malnutrition can include lower self-esteem, self-confidence, and career aspirations. The report noted that children who are malnourished make 20 percent less as adults, amounting to a collective financial loss of $125 billion. These are the children you teach comrades. These are the children to which the world is supposed to invest on as the future of our countries. This is the generation which is angry and ready to take up the fight for their survival and if we are not careful and if we continue to be reckless they may also mistake us for the enemy. We need to see and seize the moment which is being presented by these conditions of the crisis of capitalism.
One comrade once pointed out that "the fundamental premise of a revolution is that the existing social structure has become incapable of solving the urgent problems of development of the nation. A revolution becomes possible, however, only in case the society contains a new class capable of taking the lead in solving the problems presented by history. The processes of preparing a revolution consists of making the objective problems involved in the contradictions of industry and of classes find their way into the consciousness of living human masses, change this consciousness and create new correlation of human forces. The ruling classes, as a result of their practically manifested incapacity to get the country out of its blind alley, lose faith in themselves; the old parties fall to pieces; a bitter struggle of groups and cliques prevails; hopes are placed in miracles or miracle workers. All this constitutes one of the political premises of a revolution, a very important although a passive one.
"A bitter hostility to the existing order and a readiness to venture upon the most heroic efforts and sacrifices in order to bring the country out upon an upward road - this is the new political consciousness of the revolutionary class, and constitutes the most important active premise of a revolution".
Comrades Lenin was even more precise when he pointed out that the symptoms of a revolutionary situation include among others a situation (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the `upper classes`, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth.
He pointed out that for a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for `the lower classes not to want` to live in the old way; it is also necessary that `the upper classes should be unable` to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in `peace time`, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the `upper classes` themselves into independent historical action."
It is therefore not surprising that there is turbulence all over the world, the occupy movement is a product of this rising revolutionary situation. Our people are looking for a way out.
It is also not surprising that in a research conducted in Russia by its Public Opinion Foundation shows that about 60 percent of Russians believe there were more positives than negative aspects to life in the former Soviet Union. They say communism represented good and stable life for them, and praised the official Soviet era principle "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs."
When respondents were also asked to explain what they might see as positive and negative aspects of the Soviet system. In response, 33 percent credited it with good social security guarantees, stability and good care of people, 14 percent said it had been a system of justice and social equality, 9 percent said the Soviet Union was a land of rule of law and discipline, 7 percent praised the country`s guaranteed employment, and another 7 percent claimed that people were more willing to help each other then than they are today
What is more interesting is that in this category of people who saw more positives then negatives, 69 percent, which is the majority, were people aged 60 or more and 47 percent people aged between 18 and 30 which is mainly youth and this comrades is a sign of a the re-emergence of a new political consciousness which still be spearheaded by the new generation.
That is why comrades it is important for us to spend more time analyzing the crisis of capitalism so that we can provide appropriate responses to inspire and give hope to our people that there is still a way out. I must emphasize that these proposals which bring hope to the working class must always come from us.
That is why comrades it is important that we prioritize our activities to maximize the blow against the real enemy and not fictitious enemies where comrades even go to a point of killing each other for promotion posts, where comrades even go to a point of amassing resources from their union investment companies to remains superior and to consolidate the plan to liquidate their own comrades whom they see as an obstacle to their ambitions.
We should come forward and put facts where we see lies being peddled as Hitler and Goebbels did in German when they said that "by means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell -- and hell heaven..." and that you must "use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few". They surely were not aware that the world forces were at the same time encircling them towards their permanent defeat.
Part of the lies which are being peddled is that those comrades who serve in the ANC NEC and in the SACP CC are sell outs and by extension the very SACP and ANC they are serving are also sell outs. The truth of the matter is that these comrades are serving in these formations based on the resolutions and strategies of the federation which is articulated in our 2015 plan and in many of our congress resolutions.
The fact of the matter is that the very same people who say these things were also in the list towards Mangaung and some of them, we now know have allowed their ANC membership to lapse and not renewing their SACP membership in order to give themselves a licence to insult from outside. And yet we are expected to consider such individuals as revolutionaries when we know that revolutionaries are people who do not act out of convenience but are people who are driven by their conviction on principle and always act within the parameters of organisational discipline which include raising issues of discontent inside the organisation.
The other lie is to present the position of COSATU on the National Development Plan as if COSATU has totally rejected the NDP. Comrades it is not true. The fact of the matter is that the political commission mandated by the CEC met on the 6th June 2013 crafted and agreed on COSATU`s position on the NDP and later had this as a proposal presented and adopted by the CEC. COSATU position as of now with regard the NDP says that "COSATU together with our Alliance partners has over many years advocated the need for a long-term national planning process to guide the country`s development. While we have serious concerns about the form and content of the current National Planning Commission and the 2030 Plan, we nevertheless still hold the view that such a planning process remains desirable and necessary to move the country forward, and that deficiencies in the current planning process need to be urgently addressed."
We said that the NDP either contradicts or fails to take forward key progressive policies, including on the need to fundamentally transform the structure of our economy, and promote a new path of growth through redistribution; the need for a massive concerted push to industrialise our economy, and that of the region; the need to place the creation of decent work for all at the centre of economic policy; and to place redistribution and combating economic inequality and poverty as a fundamental pillar of economic development. The NDP does none of these things. We went further to identify those areas in the economic chapter and we also communicated them in the recent Alliance Summit.
Based on its own observations the CEC then resolved, among others, to call for the redrafting and fundamental overhaul of the core economic chapter of the Plan, and any other aspects of the NDP in conflict with Alliance policies, or undermining the radical economic shift, which we all agree, must form the main content of this phase of our transition. This redrafting should be based on agreed Alliance positions and this is part of the agreement which was reached at the recent Alliance Summit and which is currently being processed by the Alliance Task team under the Auspices of the Alliance Secretariat.
We request that the SADTU leadership must make copies of this resolution and circulate it amongst the delegates. Equally it is a lie that the SACP has accepted the National Development Plan. We have read the SACP`s position on the NDP and we share similar concerns and we were with the SACP in the Alliance Summit and they were as vocal as COSATU about our concerns particularly on the economic chapter of the NDP. Comrades must stop whipping the emotions of the masses based on lies.
We will continue to expose these lies more systematically until our people see the agenda behind them! Comrades the battle we are confronting is huge and must not for once get under estimated. We will have to understand the complexity of the class enemy we are confronting.
Part of the elements of the enemy manifest as the comprador bourgeoisie which is made up of two segments: a) that segment of the bourgeoisie that is allied to monopoly capital and imperialism and b) that segment that accumulates on the basis of "corruption".
For the first segment, its mode of accumulation is based on dealings that ensure that the interests of monopoly capital are protected and extended. Inter-imperialist rivalries over the spoils of the country are bound to find expression in the bickering, discord and cat-fights within the comprador bourgeoisie.
It is in this context that, if the movement is to maintain its unity and clarity of purpose and policy, this element of the bourgeoisie must be carefully tackled and isolated from the ranks of the movement or conditions get created to force them out of the movement and have them form their own parties outside of the movement so that they can be tackled openly as the enemies of the movement.
The effect of the comprador element is also to mask the true nature of the enemy. Since it has dealings with monopoly capital and imperialism, its approach is to blunt our movement`s understanding of the enemy, and to divert attention to issues that are either peripheral, or issues that are "effects" of the underlying class relations. The comprador bourgeoisie seeks to replace the domestic white capitalist class, or to squeeze itself in the alliance of white-monopoly capital and imperialism, and thereby become part of the exploiters. In this way, it will consistently attempt to discourage the advocacy of the need to pursue the NDR in the direction of social emancipation and it will ensure that the continuous postponement of measures that tackle property relations in a revolutionary way.
The second segment of the comprador bourgeoisie is those that accumulate on the basis of what is ordinarily called corruption, which is nothing but capital accumulation outside the parameters of bourgeois legality. This segment is not necessarily linked to white-monopoly capital and imperialism. Elements of it consistently seek accommodation in the monopoly capital alliance, and they consistently fail to find a place on the dinner-table of monopoly capital. At one point, it adopts the positions of the non-compradorial bourgeoisie, in another instance, it positions itself against imperialism. In this segment too, internal bickering, discord, and rivalries over the dregs of spoils that are left by monopoly-capitalism, particularly the spoils arising from tax revenue and state-debt.
A dispassionate concrete analysis of the representatives of the comprador bourgeoisie cannot be delayed any longer. Just as much as we know who our heroes and heroines are, it is easy to know who these representatives of monopoly capital are. I want to leave it to the National General Council to observe the traces of a section within the labour movement who by their actions and articulation connects with the comprador bourgeoisie and thereby consciously or unconsciously serve to prolong and sustain the dominance of the monopoly capital as the ruling class.
I want to repeat comrades that it is important at this stage for the federation and the liberation movement to prioritize the provision of solutions to the challenges facing our people particular as it is being compounded by the economic crisis. If we do not do that we will fail to see the real enemy and instead conveniently manufacture an enemy amongst ourselves.
We have already laid the bases for the possibility of providing solutions to the challenges confronting our people. One of the immediate responses which have been put forward by COSATU in the context of deepening poverty and inequality has been a living wage campaign in which we have on among others put forward a proposal for a legislated minimum wage, a proposal which has received support within the Alliance.
This proposal is based on an understanding that minimum wages can be a powerful tool for supporting decent work goals and can be a crucial complement to the strengthening of social protection floors and poverty alleviation efforts. Rising minimum wages can help to rebalance sources of growth even with limited fiscal space.
Secondly comrades, there are things which we will need to do consciously and primary amongst these is building our organisation based on pursuing class unity and the unity of our movement. At no time should we do things which undermine this core and primary responsibility of the current period.
In this context, one of the things we will need to pursue is the revival of solidarity activities amongst our unions within COSATU and this will require taking serious steps to at the same address pouching amongst our unions. The type of an organisation we want to build and which will have the capacity to respond to the challenges of the day will be determined by the activities we undertake today. These activities are articulated in our constitution, in our 1997 September Commission report, in our 2015 plan, in our 11th National Congress resolutions and in our Alliance Programme of Action including from the recent Alliance Summit.
What are these activities and what should be our approach in executing them?
The first one is respect for the constitution and the discipline of the organisation. That is why as the NOBs we are proceeding with convening the Special Congress as per the constitutional requirement. We are guided by our respect for the constitution. We will be presenting a progress report to our November CEC.
We also want to finalise all the disciplinary process currently underway within the federation and we are guided by the code of conduct and practice in the federation. As you are aware that we have also been taken to court, the very courts which are sometimes conveniently defined by some as instruments of class rule. We will be doing these things simultaneously and all we know is that COSATU will emerge victorious. Our focus is not on individuals but is on the organisation we want COSATU to remain above any individual!
Part of this process of elevating discipline will include asserting the founding principles of the federation and we will pay particular attention to the principle of worker control, one country, one industry one union, one country one federation, Solidarity and democratic centralism. We want to emphasise even in this NGC that once senior structures of the organisation has taken a decision all must work to champion those decisions and own them as theirs even if one held a different view in the meeting. That is what we call revolutionary discipline and not to say and do things only when it favours you as an individual. We want to assert the primacy of the organisation over individuals.
Secondly we must practically take up the campaigns which are directed at our primary enemy. At the centre of these campaigns is the living wage campaign for which we have already submitted section 77 notices containing our Socio-Economic Demands? Part of these demands is the total banning of the labour brokers and the campaign for an accessible, reliable and affordable public transport and in this context we are taking up a campaign against E-tolls.
As we take up these campaigns we will not seek to occupy the public space through insults that we hurl against our own liberation movement, but neither are we going to be silent when we can see that our movement is committing mistakes; but we will not deal with the movement and the ANC government as if it was our class enemy. Where we see mistakes we will approach the movement, close the doors and ventilate our anger. Where we see that the movement is not prepared to listen we will use our mass muscle, take to the streets and use fire to send a message that let the sleeping grass awaken.
At the centre of the campaigns which we will be undertaking will be an intention to inspire confidence to our members and to concurrently take forward the programme of Organisational Development as articulated the September Commission. It is when the organization takes up specific activities and in the main its campaigns that its strengths and weaknesses get exposed.
As we speak we have been engaging with the movement and government to put across a message that the decision to implement E-tolls is wrong and that we want a total ban on labour brokers and as things stand there has been progress on some of the issues we raised but there is also no agreement on others.
It is in this context that we are currently considering proposals from the meeting of organisers for National Days of Action on the 12th - 13th - and 14th where we will be going out to say we do not want e-tolls - we want reliable, accessible , affordable and safe public transport. We will go out to say to our movement we do not want Labour Brokers , we don`t want them to exist and operate even for three months , not even for a day - we want a total ban on these scavengers of workers blood.
But does it mean that when we go out we will then not vote for the ANC. No, we will come back and mobilise for the victory of the ANC in the 2014 elections because we will not get into a trap of judging the ANC on the bases of separated grievances but we will judge the ANC based on its track record of liberating our people; we will judge the ANC on its overall performance since 1994.
We know that for us to win other issues will be a function of tilting the balance of forces on the ground and we know that we are involved in a class struggle where victory is never given on a silver platter but comes as a result of a consistent and principled struggle.
Our federation has reached a point where it has to decide on its future and this decision will not be taken in boardrooms but in the actual arena of struggle where there is continuous class and ideological contest even amongst the comrades.
But the decision about our future must not proceed from a lie that we are about to split but should proceed from the fact that we need to sharpen our organisation to have the capacity to respond to the challenges of this epoch.
Instead of looking for solutions from somewhere, including those of breaking away, we should tap to our own historical resources one of those resources is the September Commission recommendations on restructuring the federation and building the capacity of its engines. We should ask ourselves if we did implement those recommendations including the subsequent organisational renewal resolutions or we implemented them selectively
This generation of COSATU leaders have a responsibility to use the current challenges and our current political and organisational activities to construct chapter eleven of the September Commission. This is homework to SADTU to read the September Commission report table proposals on how we should proceed.
We must not retreat but move with our breast forward, use our organisational muscle and take the enemy head on!
We wish that this National General Council a historical success