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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Opening Remarks by the COSATU President comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the 2013 November Central Executive Committee Meeting

18 November 2013

The chairperson of the session comrade Tyotyo James

Members of the Central Executive Committee

Our Staff members

Please accept warm greetings on behalf of the National Office Bearers

This is the last Central Executive Committee meeting for 2013 and it is the CEC which is held before the year of the General Elections.

We would like to thank affiliates and our COSATU provinces for implementing our 11th National Congress Resolution in mobilizing towards the successful marches against E-tolls and Labour Brokers. Thanks to the CEC members who kept to their deployments. At some stage the CEC will do an assessment of these actions as we prepare to heighten the campaign.

The year 2013 marks 44 years since the liberation movement adopted its strategy and tactics in 1969 at the Morogoro consultative conference, a scientific approach to the revolution which was introduced and in the main influenced and shaped by communists inside the movement.

This have always kept our movement on a superior combat position and a step ahead of the enemy. It has made our movement different from the rest because of its commitment to invest time and resources to institutionalise the application of science in the conduct of the revolution. This include ensuring that over the years and into the future, our movement always proceeds from an objective analysis of the concrete international and national conditions to determine the balance of forces which informs the deployment of appropriate strategy and tactics at various stages in the development of the revolution.

As COSATU we continue with the application of this science in the conduct of our struggle. We are now two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union and we entered the 21st Century with the triumph of Capitalism. But since the resurgence of the Global Economic Crisis which remains stubborn up to this day we have seen the triumphalism vanishing being replaced by arrogance and militarism at the head of which has been the USA –led NATO OECD forces.

This dominance by the USA led axis was characterised by the ascendency of neo-liberal economic programmes such as privatization, marketisation , liberalization, plunder of the resources of the developing world through neo-colonial manipulation, unequal trade and the debt burden which became a tool to black- mail and force countries to accept structural adjustment programmes.

The victory by the USA led axis was consolidated with the fall of the Berlin Wall in1989 leading to the integration of East and West German to what is today referred to as the European Union.

Central to the strategy of the US led axis to consolidate its position of power was the use of the Bretton Woods institutions such as the world Bank and the International Monetary Fund as its ideological battering ram forcing developing countries to comply with the Neo-Liberal prescription, turned the UN into its cover for its illegalities to undermine the sovereignties of developing countries and use its hegemony in the control of mass media to present its ideological prescription as if it were in the interests of the people as a whole and to repeat a lie until it sounded true that there was no alternative to Capitalism!

On the other side this strategy was complemented by the more successful one which is the use of military against targeted nation states.

This imperialist content of the victory by the US- led axis has meant that our transition as South Africa has been taking place in the context of the growing international economic integration (and domination), yet marginalisation, of the developing countries, under the increasing assertiveness of the neo-liberal international agenda.

This has imposed challenges and constraints on the democratic movement within our own country and has generally compromised the sovereignty of states particularly in the developing world. Agreement on the extent to which these conditions could limit or open space to advance the National Democratic Revolution has remained an area of disagreement within our movement for quite a long time.

I have observed that in the recent alliance Summit there was an agreement on the features and elements if the current international situation but there may be no agreement about what this should mean in terms of the policy choices we should make. It is in this context that the left forces inside the Alliance have a responsibility to continuously reflect on the space being created by the current capitalist crisis to table tried and tested Socialist Policy alternatives.

With every day that passes glaring evidence faces everyone in the world about the correctness of Socialist alternatives and Marxist-Leninist view of the world as the only scientific theory to analyse the crisis facing contemporary capitalism. Marxism remains the guide to action on how to transcend capitalism and build a new society free from class exploitation and social oppression.

We are observing the consolidation of a phenomenon in which rivalries between imperialist nation states have subdued under the hegemony of international finance capital. However, this does not imply a disappearance of imperialism. Rather imperialism has acquired a particularly vicious form under the imperatives of international finance capital.

The major imperialist powers have formed a bloc under the leadership of the US, which ensures that any challenge to neoliberal globalisation and the hegemony of international finance capital is eliminated. In this, the role of the US state and its economy remains crucial.

We have seen how in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, the imperialist nations took the initiative to form the G20 and proposed a coordinated expansion of state expenditure as the way towards recovery.

But once the big banks and financial companies were bailed out using taxpayers’ money, the imperialist powers – especially the US, Germany, France, UK – started advocating austerity measures and cutbacks in public spending. In that way the burden of adjustment shifted on to the working people across the world through the austerity measures even as international finance has recovered from its losses at the expense of the state exchequer. This could not have happened had it not been for the imperialist nation states acting in unison in the interests of international finance. The possibility of a shift away from neoliberal globalisation and curbing the power of big finance in the backdrop of the crisis is being stymied by imperialism.

The operations of the US led NATO forces have been extended to other parts of the world, in the name of the ‘war on terror’ or ‘humanitarian interventions’. But the targeted continents fits into the ideological strategic objectives of the USA led NATO forces.

The purpose is to destroy any regime that asserts national sovereignty and protects the oil and mineral resources of the region from the predatory oil companies based in the West. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and most recently Libya were all fought to meet these objectives. US militarism is an outcome of the systemic needs of imperialism to maintain its hegemony over the globe.

Therefore, from a Marxist point of view, imperialism continues to be the foremost barrier before all those who seek to create a just, democratic and peaceful world order. Struggle and resistance against international finance driven imperialism comprises the core tasks of revolutionary movements of our time. In the throes of a crisis, finance capital assaults and seeks to dismantle the gains secured by workers in the earlier phase of capitalism. The fight back against the neoliberal orthodoxy requires the defence of the rights of the working people and the gains made over the decades of struggle in the 20th century in getting social benefits.

The neoliberal policies have resulted in heightened inequalities, growing unemployment and homelessness for the people in the developed capitalist countries. The ongoing crisis and the state sponsored bailout of the corporates and the bankers have vividly brought out for the people the iniquitous and unjust order that exists.

Protests against corporate greed and the austerity measures have erupted and intensified in Europe and the United States. This, however, is yet to transform into a powerful political alternative, which can usher in qualitative changes.

The resistance to imperialist globalization requires the building of an alternative Left platform centred on rolling back the neoliberal offensive and unshackling the grip of international finance capital to restore economic and popular sovereignty. Such a Left platform should advocate robust state intervention to develop the productive forces in a manner which generates employment and reduces income inequality.

Our agenda must include pushing for the Left alternative platform and the political movement which must be developed according to the specific material conditions of country.

The fact of the matter is that while international finance capital operates globally, it utilizes the state in each country to enforce its neoliberal dictates. The fight to wrest economic and popular sovereignty for the people is therefore a class struggle within the nation state which in our situation we have dialectically describe as the class content of the National Democratic Revolution and the Nationalist content of the class struggle.

Imperialist globalization has not rendered this nation state based struggle redundant. Even as the global forms of class struggle and anti-imperialist movements develop over time, the primacy of the nation based class struggle cannot be underplayed.

The working class remains central to any revolutionary challenge to capitalism. Despite assertions of the ‘post-Marxists’ to the contrary, the working class has grown in its size and strength globally.

The size of the proletariat has grown in the developing world and the world as a whole. Moreover, those employed in the services sector are also exploited workers. The changes that have come about are in the forms of employment and labour exploitation, under the rubric of ‘labour market flexibility’.

Across the world, organised formal sector employment has been increasingly replaced by casual and contract based work. Alongside the institutionalization of a hire and fire regime, economic growth under the neoliberal regime has also led to a ballooning informal economy characterised by intense exploitation and self-exploitation of labour. A key challenge confronting us today includes devising new forms of organising the casualised and informal workforce, who bear the brunt of intensified exploitation.

Part of this strategic task we need to undertake also include a focus on the rural transformation with a focus on gender issues and integrate this into the mainstream analysis of class exploitation and social oppression.

We also need to focus our energies on confronting the predatory nature of capitalism as the primary cause for the threat to the world environment and ecological sustainability. This will mean defining the content of the struggle to protect the environment as part of the process to ensure that there are serious left alternatives to ensure equity in addressing the problems of environmental degradation.

But can we agree in the movement about this characterisation of the immediate and long term tasks which will determine the emphasis of policies.

Comrades I thought I should raise this matter because in the recent Alliance Summit we observed that there was opening up of space for varied possible solutions to the challenges confronting our country.

This was properly captured in the Alliance Summit declaration which on among others said that “, the challenge of ensuring productive investment, and the management of short term capital flows, are interrelated challenges which are critical to resolve, if we are to achieve our objective of industrialising our economy, and generating decent work on a large scale. On all these issues, there is significant space to discuss heterodox economic alternatives, outside of the traditional economic orthodoxy. This includes interventions used in various parts of the world around regulation of the financial sector, and capital management techniques or capital controls. We need to ensure we conduct proper research on these alternatives. However, having done this, we must act, rather than just talk. We must learn by doing, and not be afraid to make mistakes.

With regard to macroeconomic policy the Summit said that “we must take forward, and give concrete meaning, to the Mangaung Resolution that we must “strive for macro-economic balances that support industrialisation, are biased towards job creation … bolster the growth of domestic industrial capacity and in making policy tradeoffs will select those that favour productive sectors of the economy.” The Summit went further to set up a task team which was instructed to address itself to this mandate as a matter of priority.

Can COSATU in its current state in a position to exploit these possibilities and maximise them for fundamental transformation. Can we work with the SACP to put forward a properly reached proposal on macro-economic policy which may even be considered to the replace the current rejected economic chapter of the National Development Plan?

Can we even in the context of our differences say but these are our priorities and work towards finding solutions and alternatives which can put our real class enemies on a back foot?

The answer to these burning questions of our times is found on the media statements when we insult each other, the answer is found in the insults that are hurled by some groupings in every gathering against the COSATU president and the plans underway to remove some NOBs because they are seen as standing on the way towards the achievement of some undefined objectives which has nothing to do with the burning questions of our revolution.

Drums of war are being beaten throughout the night mobilising comrades to war , financial resources have been mobilised for this war ,we are told , journalist are being approached with envelopes, given stories to paint this or that leader to plant a seed of doubt to these leaders and to put into question their credibility . There is commitment to a war to remove some individuals who have been defined as enemies because they sit in the ANC NEC and in the SACP Central Committee. When you ask as how could the comrades who have acted in accordance with our political strategy be seen as enemies to a point of seeking to remove them, the answer is that they must be removed!

This NOB collective is being threatened that it will be removed; they are being insulted for doing the work for which they were elected. Attempts are being made to deepen divisions amongst the members of the NOB collective

So everyone moves to protect his or her space and counter battles get waged in the night and in the open day light in marches when the office of the president of COSATU gets dragged down in the mud because the person currently occupying that office dares to stand up and defended the constitution and the integrity of the policies of COSATU. No the most immediate task which must be undertaken is not to confront finance capital and the monopoly capital as our principal enemy; it is not to table alternatives macro – economic policies. Instead the most immediate task is for comrades to maintain their so called “names” build over the years through sacrifices. So this becomes a new struggle to which resources are deployed to wage war against this or that comrade who is tarnishing their egos when everyone fears them , how dare can he or she not fear us like the rest who fear us. Our organisations are being dragged into battles to protect egos of individual comrades.

In the course of the CEC I will present a report on our preparations towards the Special Congress and I have already seen a letter addressed to me but sent to all including staff members and affiliates and its central message is that there is an intention to get a new convenor to prepare towards the Special Congress. It is as if the Special Congress will deliver Socialism and the President is standing on the way to Socialism! When I present the report the CEC will have to make its own mind about it.

Comrades, as the NOB collective we are concern about how the organisation is being held into ransom about executing its own policies. Let COSATU implement its own policies free from any pressure to accommodate and bend our laws to suit individuals.

Some in this NOB collective have now developed a thick skin against insults being hurled at us and those who sit in hotels and burn the midnight oil setting up groupings that must come to meetings and in marches to hurl insults and destroy property must change their strategy. If the intention is to remove us, please know that we are here to stay and we will complete our term of office!

Comrades we are equally concern that when we see possibilities opening up in many fronts making it less difficult for us to advance a Socialist agenda; we hear unions such as NUMSA contemplating a possibility of moving out of COSATU and moving out of the Alliance. We are concern about this because we have always understood advancing a class struggle within the context of an international and domestic balance of forces where capitalism is dominant will require resilience and a political stamina which does not include retreating out of our political strategy to contest for the political space within and outside of the Alliance. We are trying to understand as to why is NUMSA coming up with these proposals when we have just been in the 5th Central Committee and later in our 11th National Congress where these matters wee comprehensively considered. Even before NUMSA went public about what these considerations we have been observing a conduct from our union which was beginning to give signal the union is independent from any resolutions and decisions taken by the federation and will only support those which favour them.

So when the union made a public announcement about what it was contemplating , including soughing a mandate whether it should remain or continue to be in COSATU and to be in the Alliance, this could not be divorced from its public posture which appeared to be that of replacing its role to that of a federation. We have seen how of late NUMSA has adopted a conduct of saying to hell with the CEC decisions, if the union fails to have its views supported in the constitutional structures they simply make a media statement and directly negate the federations position and policies and where they agree with a position black mail everyone as not being willing to implement those decisions and this is done in the open, in media statements and in press conferences.

It is even difficult not to place the call for a Special Congress within this context of an intention to drive the federation away from its course to a path that suits the agenda of NUMSA as a singular union.

So the most immediate response is that NUMSA’s approach is wrong and that the union is using its status as a majority union wrongly. To think that at the verge of an election campaign and in the context of the current domestic and international balance of forces there can be an acceptance of a right about turn on political strategy is ideologically flawed, adventurous and un-strategic.

But as the NOBs collective we also remain with a view that NUMSA must be given a chance to explain itself in the CEC or in any of our constitutional bodies. We want to engage NUMSA here in this boardroom and not to expose each other in the glare of the media and our class adversaries.

I want to insist that let us go back to our ways of engagement or else we will destroy each other and the very organisation we claim to be sharpening.

It is only a blind person or those who refuse to see the truth that the silly little yet destructive wars we are fighting against each other do no stand to benefit anyone and no one will ever win. Instead there is going to be a reciprocal siege /mutual destruction of the very contenting parties and in the process the federation will go down with all this current generation of leaders.

We have to make a choice between the cessation of hostilities and allowing the organisation to remain above all of us or to continue with fighting each other to a point of destroying ourselves and the organisations and leave the people we serve exposed to the enemy or being wooed by some demagogues out there waiting to exploit them.

If we refuse to confront this truth which is starring at us , that it is time for the cessation of hostilities we will fail to put up the building blocks for socialism for the future generations when there was fertile ground to lay a solid foundation and even to achieve Socialism in our life time.


Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

Congress of South African Trade Unions

110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Streets



P.O.Box 1019



South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339

Fax: +27 11 339-6940

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E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za