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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 9, 9 May 2004

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Implementing the ANC Manifesto: Intensify the working class offensive to build people’s power in the economy and the locality

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The election campaign and elections are over; the celebratory rallies, swearing in ceremonies and the Presidential inauguration, are also over. We closed this chapter with May Day rallies throughout the country this last weekend. The most significant event was the unveiling of the tombstones of the worker heroes and heroines whose bus plunged into Saulspoort Dam in the Free State on May Day last year. President Thabo Mbeki, joined by the national leadership of the Alliance, did this unveiling. As President Mbeki said at the celebratory function of the ANC a week ago, it is back to work. We agree.

For the first time since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, the ANC now leads all provincial governments. This provides a unique opportunity for effective co-ordination between central and provincial governments, thus ensuring an accelerated implementation of the policies of the ANC in government. The glue that should hold together government work at all levels is that of creating work and fighting poverty. We need concrete programmes, implementation strategies and evaluation criteria around job creation and fighting poverty. All budget votes, premiers’ addresses should be annual report cards on concrete progress in this regard.

In this edition, and in the wake of the ANC’s overwhelming electoral victory, we wish to highlight some of the key challenges around the implementation of the ANC Manifesto, particularly those relating to priorities for economic transformation.

Build women’s power for women’s emancipation and gender transformation

The SACP heartily welcomes the increase in the number of women in cabinet, deputy ministers, premiers and in the legislatures. This sets the right tone and gives further impetus to women’s emancipation and gender transformation in our society. Much as the challenge of gender transformation is for both men and women, it is our belief that unless women are at the head of this effort, transformation of gender relations will not be accelerated. This also requires that government and progressive organisations consciuosly build a progressive climate and programmes to take forward the gender struggle.

In line with the commitments of the ANC Manifesto, we should however not just be satisfied with counting increased numbers of women in Cabinet, important as this is. We rather expect these women leaders and cadres to drive, as their priority, programmes that are primarily beneficial to the millions of women workers and poor women in both urban and rural areas. This is the core of the challenge of women’s emancipation and gender transformation. More houses, electricity, clean drinking water, quality jobs, and other basic services go a long way in liberating women from the drudges of unpaid labour and grinding poverty. Working class and poor women also constitute the majority of voters in our country and, since 1994, have proven to be the most reliable vote for the ANC, particularly poor African women in urban and rural areas.

However, it would be wrong to expect that the task of women’s emancipation and gender transformation is solely the task of government. The primary driving force for women’s emancipation and gender transformation rest with the organisation of working class and poor women on the ground. It is their energies that should be unleashed to ensure that addressing the gender contradiction (in its relationship with the national and class contradictions) becomes a priority in the second decade of our freedom.

Through our Red October campaigns and the 2004 election campaign it has become clear to the SACP that women workers, urban and rural poor women have not made full use of the many opportunities brought about by the progressive policies of the ANC. The principal reason for this is that not enough effort has been put into the organisation of these women around their own immediate interests into a solid bloc for the betterment of their own lives. As we have argued before, the challenge is to organise the millions of poor women in stokvels, in burial societies, in informal trading, spaza shops, co-operatives as well as intensifying the union organisation of farm, domestic and casual workers. It is for instance through these efforts that a women’s movement should be built, a women’s movement from below, rather than conceptualising it in abstract terms.

For these objectives to be realised the workers and the poor in general, and women’s organisations in particular, should intensify the struggle against corruption at all levels, especially at local level. One of the consistent complaints of our people is about the widespread corruption in awarding of tenders and generally the local procurement strategies at local government levels. Hundreds of thousands of work opportunities can for instance be created through procurement strategies that prioritise co-operatives as well as tenders for products like school uniforms, workers’ safety equipment and overalls, and cleaning and refuse removal. Many of these can be sourced out to communities through for instance co-operatives, rather than a singular model of tenders given to individual entrepreneurs employing hundreds of women but paying them slave wages. In addition the SACP calls for, and will be taking up, provision of productive land for household based subsistence farming. Communities and women in rural areas will benefit immensely from acceleration of this model of land and agricultural reform, both in white owned farms and the former Bantustans. It is these tasks that we expect government policies must prioritise, in line with the ANC Manifesto commitment to build sustainable livelihoods and communities.

Implement the ANC Manifesto through ongoing contact with the masses

From what we have outlined above it is clear that going back to work does not mean disengaging with the mass of our people on the ground. Instead a critical component of implementation of the ANC Manifesto is to immediately go back to our people (and on an ongoing basis) through people’s, community development and workers’ forums to follow up on the many concerns, problems and challenges raised by our people during the election campaign.

There were many of these issues, including service delivery instead of service cut-offs, unemployment, poverty, harassment and exploitation of farm and domestic workers, work opportunities for the disabled, HIV/AIDS, but also critically questions around corruption, non-functional ward committees, some of the councillors who have lost touch with the people, corruption in some local governments’ procurement strategies, particularly in the allocation of tenders and other municipal business, and black economic empowerment.

The ANC Manifesto marks important shifts and Alliance points of convergence

The SACP, and indeed the Alliance as a whole, the transformation of the accumulation regime to create jobs and eradicate poverty, is the key challenge facing the second decade of our freedom. The SACP has further argued that the principal site on which to deepen the NDR is that of economic transformation in favour of the workers and the poor, otherwise our revolution risks serious stagnation and setbacks. In addition, local governance becomes a critical sphere of focus. To this end we have argued that we need to build independent working class power in all key sites of power in society, so that the working class is the driving force in such struggles and transformation. This is simply because private capital cannot act as the lever to transform the current accumulation regime. Indeed this challenge is captured in the ANC Manifesto as the challenge of South Africa’s “two economies”.

The ANC Manifesto is a very progressive platform around which to realise many of our objectives in the coming ten years. This manifesto captures many of the positions that have been articulated by the working class since 1996, and incorporates a number of policy positions that reflect improved cross-pollination of ideas within the alliance as well as the impact of working class struggles, and the movement’s own experiences in government over the last 10 years.

Some of these policy positions and even shifts contained in the ANC Manifesto include a shift from preoccupation with ‘macro-economic stability’ to ‘rolling back the frontiers of poverty’. Already this shift begun to emerge at the ANC NGC of 2000, which argued that macro economic stability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for growth and development. The ANC Manifesto also emphasises an increasing role for the state in leading a job creation effort, principally through the extended public works programme. The Manifesto also goes beyond a one-sided emphasis on attracting foreign direct investment to tackling South Africa’s “two economies”.

These commitments also mark a significant narrowing of the gap within the Alliance around economic policy. We therefore need to collectively build upon these. In fact the very theme of the ANC Manifesto “A people’s contract to create work and fight poverty” is in line with the policy perspectives advanced by the working class during the first decade of our freedom.

In this respect we also expect state enterprises to be strengthened as public institutions to play a play a crucial role in implementing the ANC Manifesto. As the SACP, we hope that we believe that government must not go back to the mode of “privatisation” of state enterprises. Instead, government mus primarily utilise these enterprises as deliverers of public and strategic economic services, rather than these being seen as narrow commercial entities. The SACP calls for the strengthening and consolidation of a strong, efficient, democratic and accountable public and parastatals sector. The SACP also firmly believes that we need to urgently undertake a review of all the key priorities of state enterprises, in line with the objective of creating work and fighting poverty, including a comprehensive review of their performance during the first decade of our freedom, within the context of the conclusions of government’s Ten Year Review.

An urgent audit of BEE is required

A critical area that government, acting together with the workers and poor, will have to focus on is challenge of ensuring that black economic empowerment is indeed broad based rather than a process that benefits an elite. Some of the issues raised by the workers and poor communities are that BEE seems to focus on elites, and in some cases a lot of corruption goes under the name of BEE, in the allocation of tenders and other government business.

As part of launching a working class offensive towards the SACP’s medium term vision of building independent working class power in key sites of power, we need to ensure that we much more aggressively place the class question (albeit in inter-relationship with the gender and national questions) at the centre of the growth and development strategy, from national to ward levels. This is also how we should approach black economic empowerment. Our ideological approach to BEE should be that it is the building of people’s power in the economy, with the working class at the head of this effort.

It is also of utmost importance that the gender dimension of BEE is also given particular attention. In line with what we have argued above it is important that this policy, and practices, is measured in terms of opportunities for women workers and poor urban and rural women. So far what seems to be the dominant model in many BEE deals are partnerships that simply place investment vehicles of women, youth, unions and the disabled as appendages in shareholding structures, without particular attention being paid on how this model directly benefits communities themselves.

Therefore a comprehensive evaluation of broad based BEE thus far needs to be undertaken. In the financial sector campaign for instance, it is clear that opportunistic elements of the black petty bourgeoisie are seeking to steal the gains of this working class-led campaign and victories and turn these into the narrow issues of black capitalist shareholding in the financial sector. We need a sharper class scrutiny of BEE as a matter of urgency. We also need to ensure that concrete criteria and measures are developed on what we mean by “broad based” empowerment

An intensified class offensive on private capital

In order to address and effectively respond to the electoral mandate of the workers and the poor as well as the challenge of joblessness and poverty, it is absolutely critical that we place working class interests at the centre of transformation of South African society. In this respect this second decade of our freedom requires that we intensify the class offensive on the bourgeoisie if we are to address poverty and joblessness.

We need to ensure that the conception of South Africa as “two economies”, does not lead to a strategy, which treats “the first economy” as basically all right, and therefore to be left alone. This runs the danger of leaving the capitalist class alone, thus the dominant current accumulation regime remaining untouched. That is why as the SACP we would rather characterise the South African economy as a single capitalist economy, with dualistic poles. The poles are not isolated from each other but articulate as parts of a single whole, thus requiring and overarching strategy.

As we enter the second decade of our freedom we wish to point out that private capital in this country has not played a meaningful role in the overall transformation of our country. Government’s Ten Year Review points out clearly what we have always been saying over the last five to six years. As a country we have made enormous progress in those areas where the government has taken a lead – electrification, clean drinking water, housing, telephony, access to primary health care, etc – the lives of our people have changed for the better. Where we have left matters to the private sector we have seen retrenchments, outsourcing, casualisation, exclusion from banks and other financial services, no investment in low cost housing and other public infrastructure, and generally an investment strike by big business, including divestment offshore.

Many South African companies are awash with cash – profits from the sweat and blood of the workers, yet they have not played their part in economic reconstruction. Therefore the primary culprit for worsening poverty and the job loss bloodbath in our country is capitalism, that is “the first economy”. Private capital and capitalism have not been part of the reconciliation and reconstruction effort during the first decade of our freedom. Of course we know capitalism doesn’t care about people’s needs but solely about its profits!

Another example is that of agricultural capital, that still remains predominantly white, owns most of South Africa’s prime agricultural land, and generally represents that section of South African capital that is most resistant to change. Large-scale mass mobilisation is needed in the countryside, to organise farm workers into trade unions and pressurising agricultural capital to release more productive land for the rural workers and the poor.

The immediate platform to confront private capital is the accelerated implementation of the resolutions of the Growth and Development Summit. This means escalating the class offensive by the working class to defend quality jobs, for more investment in infrastructure and poor communities, a much more effective control over workers’ pension and provident funds, demand for labour intensify in government tenders and trade union organisation of the more vulnerable workers. The struggle in the second decade of our freedom should be about an intensified struggle to place the class interests of the workers and poor of our country at the centre of transformation. Such a class offensive is a necessary and indispensable component if we are to realise the objectives of the ANC Manifesto, and ensure that the working class is at the head of the national democratic revolution.

Let the working class take responsibility for its vote!

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