Cosatu Congress united in drive for Transformation
At its Sixth Congress in September, COSATU clearly asserted its socialist
vision, and its concrete plans for a socialist future. Two thousand three
hundred delegates, representing 1.7 million paid-up affiliate members,
were unambivalent about supporting socialism as promising workers a better
Crucial to the congress were decisions about a central role for COSATU, in influencing the political and economic transformation of South Africa.
In his opening speech, federation president John Gomomo voiced the dissatisfaction of many: "Workers are concerned about the legacy of apartheid on such issues as mismanagement of our economy, the debt burden, a deformed public service, vast unemployment and poverty, concentration of economic activity in the hands of a few, massive economic and social inequalities."
He attacked the "arrogant approach" of business in NEDLAC: "All issues placed on the table that will bring about changes in the lives of our members have been rejected out of hand. Yet, every day we are told to co-operate with them. They have to re-think their approach."
He attacked GEAR, calling it a "monster". It was clear that delegates agreed with him, in spite of the spirited defence of the government's economic policies President Mandela later made in his own address.
The Congress was innovative and creative, taking decisions in matters that are new ground for trade unions, though closely linked to the well-being of workers. Most important was the decision that COSATU should play an active part in the economy and development of South Africa. It believes, for example, in strong state intervention in the productive sector, and the capacity of the state to provide basic services in communities.
This accords with recommendations of the September Commission, which considered the future of trade unionism in this country, and, in its recently published report, suggested that COSATU be involved in matters like an industrial development strategy, and in changing investment patterns and forms of management.
COSATU intends to work at influencing Alliance policy, and, through it, government policy. One way of doing this is to work as a partner in the Alliance, which remains, as a place 1for working out joint strategies, and formulating joint policy on the basis of areas of agreement. COSATU will raise policy proposals at the ANC Policy Conference in November, at the ANC National Conference, and the SACP National Congress next year.
COSATU and the SACP will fight the next elections together with the ANC. This was made clear at the Alliance Summit at the end of August, and was confirmed by the COSATU congress.
The federation intends to help build the ANC as an organisation with
a bias towards the workers and the poor.
Organisations within the Alliance will retain their independence, and COSATU
says it will retain its right to mass action: another way of putting pressure
on the government.
Influence within the Alliance has already begun to show. The Minister of Labour has withdrawn the Employment Standards Bill from NEDLAC, and will table it in Parliament after all. The government has announced that GEAR is "not cast in stone"; a step back, even if not a real retreat from, its previous position, that GEAR was "not negotiable".
Another bold decision was that COSATU should work on developing political and economic theory. As well as producing its own alternative to Gear, to discuss within the Alliance, it will begin discussing its definition of socialism, "together with the SACP, and, where appropriate, with the ANC."
A statement issued after the Congress by the national office-bearers said, "It is not socialism that has failed our country. It is capitalism, under the stewardship of big capital and the National Party."
should be a Fundraiser
An important and political task
The Party needs money. Garth Strachan of the SACP Central Committee
and Finance Committee describes the situation, in the first of what will
be a series of articles.
Sometimes, fundraising is seen as not important or political enough, but, without money, the Party cannot exist. We have to pay rent for offices, wages to full-time workers; we have to pay telephone bills, and all the other expenses that to go maintain our organisation.
The SACP can expect no large donations from the bosses and big capital, so where does the money come from?
It has to come from us. That is, it has to come from our members and supporters. But the members of our Party are drawn mainly from the working class and unemployed, and generally can afford only small contributions. The SACP cannot guarantee stop orders from its members through shop floor agreements, as trade unions do. It must collect membership dues and subs through its branch structures.
The National Congress in April next year is going to cost money, which we are going to have to raise, so it is vital that our financial health should be strengthened.
The Financial Committee has launched a national fundraising drive: the Chris Hani Appeal. In addition, the national leadership has appealed to all structures that the fundraising should be driven by the political leadership, and not left simply to one or two comrades. Every member should be a fundraiser.
Provincial and branch leaders have been instructed to:
Set targets for collecting debit orders, the core of the campaign. Provinces get back 50% of the funds raised, for their own work.
Appeal to important people in the province to provide donations, either in money or in kind; a donation of transport, for example. or of office space, can be very important. Many people in our communities will support the SACP and what it stands for.
Organise events: discos, cultural evenings, high-profile speaker events, sports festivals, movie shows and even house meetings, Saturday street stalls selling Umsebenzi. Events raise money, help build organisation, and build the SACP profile.
We hear that, in many areas, SACP structures have already been doing
many of these things, and have organised a variety of events, in interesting
and creative ways.
Let us know what you do: how much you raise, and how you raise it. Umsebenzi hopes to report on examples of good fundraising. Fundraising is an important political and organisational task, not just a matter of accounting.
The basis of Communist organisation
The recent COSATU Congress highlighted the need for socialists to
re-commit themselves to building organisational strength and capacity.
Specifically, we have been reminded that it is the political party that
must play a central and fundamental role in struggling for socialism. Dale
McKinley revisits the basics needed to carry out our tasks.
1. Communist organisation must be adapted to the specific historical circumstances of the country in which it operates, and to the specific conditions and purpose of its activity. (It's no use, for example, expecting industrial workers to lead the revolution in a nation composed of small farmers and shopkeepers).
2. Common to all Communist organisation is the working class struggle. In other words, the fundamental political task of the working class is to struggle for its rights, against the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, distribution and exchange.
3. The basic organisational task of a Communist Party is to become the leader of the revolutionary working-class movement through having the closest ties with the working class itself. Without these ties, the leadership will not lead the masses, but, at best, tail after them.
4. Communist activity needs to be centralised. This doesn't mean formal, mechanical centralisation, but rather the building of a leadership which is strong, quick to react, and flexible. Otherwise, the masses will see centralisation as bureaucratisation, and will oppose leadership and discipline.
5. A Communist Party must avoid separation or estrangement between the leadership and the people.
6. The work of the Party should be a working school of revolutionary Marxism, through day-to-day collective work in the organisation. Every member should be expected to devote time and energy to the Party, and always to give the best in service.
7. Communist Party members should attend meetings, at whatever level, regularly. This must be married to concrete tasks, to be carried out in such a way that cadres see their work as useful, desirable and practicable. Otherwise, even the most energetic participation in worker struggles will fail to influence those struggles.
8. Communists should report back to the Party on the political work they have done.
9. Communist propaganda includes: individual discussion, participation in the union movement and its struggles, and through the Party press and literature. It should raise the political understanding and the militancy of those who hear it.
10. As part of its struggle against all capitalist social relations, a Communist Party must make it a priority to develop a comprehensive gender consciousness among its cadres and the working class as a whole. This should be reflected in the Party's work, in relationships between cadres, and as a central component of its propaganda.
12. We must work so that workers recognise our Communist organisation as the leading element of their own movement. Communists must be involved in every worker struggle, and in the concrete questions of the workers' movement.
(Many of these points are taken from, "Guidelines on the Organisational Structure of Communist Parties, on the Methods and Content of their Work", as adopted at the 24th session of the Third Congress of the Communist International, July 1921.)
Red Stars and Thumbs down
to delegates at the recent COSATU Congress for putting through a host of progressive and combative resolutions. We were very impressed by the resolution calling on all affiliates to give organisational and material support to the political party of the working class: the SACP.
to Italian film maker and critic, Franco Zeffirelli, for putting into perspective the hysteria surrounding Princess Diana's death. He said it was all a simple matter of "mass stupidity". We wonder what would have happened if one quarter of the energy, time and introspection devoted to this event was expended on the tens of thousands of preventable deaths (from starvation, for example, and poverty-related diseases) that occurred while Diana and her companion were playing in Paris.
3 Thumbs Down: to the out-of-touch Democratic Party and its Johannesburg councillors for continuing with their political arrogance. The most recent example was the attempt to represent their Johannesburg mega-city referendum as a democratic expression of "ordinary South Africans". We want to remind them that their northern-suburb dream-world is not "ordinary".
2 Thumbs Down: to Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, for taking the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality to the Constitutional Court. The NCGLE had applied for same-sex sexual activity, by consent, to be decriminalised. The Constitution is crystal-clear in ensuring no discrimination according to "sexual orientation", and that includes sex.
Arrests in the Richmond district
SACP press statement
The people of KwaZulu-Natal have been in a state of shock, grief
and anger, over the recent murders near Richmond. On September 16th, after
the police had made arrests, the SACP in KwaZulu-Natal issued a statement,
saying that it appreciated the positive moves made by the SAPS Special
Unit in the Richmond district. The statement also said:
We hope that the arrest of sixteen people, including Sifiso Nkabinde, will bring violence and killing of people in Richmond to an end. We urge the people in local communities to co-operate with the security forces, and bring information forward for the arrest of all those responsible for the killing of our people.
The SACP will support every move to arrest any individual, no matter how popular, as long as his or her being with the community results in violence. The time to use political violence to occupy the political centre stage, is buried.
Let the long arm of the law and justice take its course. Let there be peace, security, development and bread to the South African working class.
Rugby is rooted in the traditions of the oppressed
Chris Derby Magobotiti of the SACP branch at the University of the
Western Cape, looks at the class nature of South African rugby.
The history of rugby in South Africa runs parallel, in a racist, white minority group, and in historically oppressed communities: that is, coloured, African and Indian.
This history has a rich legacy of resistance. Speaking to some veterans in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, I got the strong impression that, in the 1950s, rugby was highly organised in working-class communities, explicitly challenging the racist Springboks.
These former players argued that the rugby project was fused in the ongoing national democratic revolution in order to liberate and unify the historically oppressed communities, coloured and Africans, in the eastern and western Cape Province in particular.
People were harassed and arrested, but campaigns and mobilisation were intensified. There was overwhelming international support, the Springboks became isolated, and began to go on rebel tours.
The strategic perspectives of the SACP are to advance, deepen and defend the April 1994 democratic breakthough. Many possibilities have opened up for the radical transformation of our society, but are not always obviously available to the dispossessed, toiling masses.
Instead, our transformation, in rugby particularly, has begun to favour the capitalist class.
The interests of the bourgeoisie are always narrow, based on profit, seeking to use nation-building as a vehicle for bourgeois interests. Where is development in rugby going, and for whose class interests? Isn't rugby vanishing in working-class communities?
It seems to me that rugby has been taken away from the townships. Players from working-class communities are not able to acquaint themselves with constantly emerging new rugby rules, and cannot compete with their privileged opponents. Playing conditions in the townships are devastatingly poor, and white players refuse to play there. Communities are alienated.
The bourgeoisie has taken away our television rights to rugby, and sold them to major media conglomerates. They have dominated our game, and made sure that we don't own it any more; ours is soccer.
We need to reclaim our game and fields, otherwise the whole initiative will be lost.
South African Prisons are still unreconstructed
The police and the prisons in the old days were the most important
insruments of apartheid repression. While clear attempts are now being
made to reform the police force, the prisons seem to remain unreconstructed.
We read almost daily about former security policemen confessing their crimes in order to get amnesty, but there is no sign of prison officers doing the same. No representatives from the Department of Correctional Services came to the TRC hearing on prisons in July. Yet terrible abuses have taken place in South African gaols.
The Prisons Act, which once forbade publication of information about prison and prisoners isn't observed any longer; former prisoners, including President Mandela himself, have broken it by publishing prison memoirs; yet what happens in the prisons is not yet a matter of public discussion.
There should be wide discussion, because there is no sign that either the philosophy or the practice of the prison service has changed.
Fourteen years ago, during the years of repression, the Prisons Department gave the figures for deaths in prison, from July 1981 to June 1981, as 199: 157 from "natural causes", others from suicide, accidents, assaults by fellow prisoners, assaults by warders and being shot while trying to escape.
Recent figures from the Department of Correctional Services are shockingly similar. The number of deaths in prison during the year 1994-1995 was 249, and 188 of these died of "natural causes". Other causes given included "shooting", "other", transport accidents and drowning.
What does "other" mean? And don't deaths from transport accidents and drowning show some negligence on the part of the prison authorities? And what about the astonishing explanation, "natural causes"? Do these include neglected illness, such as untreated heart attacks and untreated asthma? Deaths from asthma have been known to take place in prisons.
No use asking the commanding officers or the warders: it's too easy for them to lie, for there will rarely have been independent witnesses. NICRO, the prisons-monitoring body, reports that, where there are abuses, prisoner still have to resort to devious, secret ways of getting news out.
The Department of Correctional Services has built a new maximum-security gaol to keep society safe from the most dangerous criminals. But there are other prisoners, too, and an urgent need for real reform of the prison service.
These suggestions for reform were made by a witness at the TRC prisons hearing in July:
- An independent monitoring body, with a medical component, reporting to Parliament, and with the right to table its reports publicly. It should have the right to inspect prisons at short notice, and interview prisoners, if it thinks this necessary.
- Real rehabilitation for prisoners. This means training for long-term prisoners especially. It includes literacy classes, training in use of machines, like sewing machines, typewriters and computers, earth-moving equipment, and training in skills like chicken-farming.
- Intensive re-training of prison staff.
We need a strong,vibrant public sector
An Alliance task team, headed by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, is to be set up to look into the problems of the state apparatus and the civil service. In this article, Philip Dexter MP identifies some problems in the public sector, and discusses solutions.
So far, the achievements of transformation in
the public sector have been to appoint a more racially representative management,
and to generally get commitments to improving cost accounting, general
performance, transparency and delivery.
Too often, however, this has gone together with a commitment to down-sizing, a reduction in some services, attempting to apply business principles in a mechanical way, and, increasingly, contracting out and privatisation.
The entire public sector faces problems of costs and efficiency, productivity, representivity, responsiveness, accountability, quality of services and output, poor management, low staff skills, and enormous salary differentials - or the apartheid wage gap.
One of the consequences of the crisis in the state has been that certain services have deteriorated, and some have stopped altogether. This is generally the case in weak or poor local governments, in some provinces, and, in particular, in rural areas. In other cases, services cannot be upgraded because of the lack of resources available for investment.
A generalised response to this situation is that which argues that, because the state isn't functioning, the private sector must be drawn in to deliver the necessary services.
Again, when public enterprises are seen to be operating at a loss, privatisation is proposed. Sometimes people forget to consider other ways of making enterprises function effectively or profitably.
It is essential to the success of the national democratic revolution that the government is supported in its efforts at reconstruction and development by a strong, vibrant, healthy, responsive, representative, accountable, efficient, productive and loyal public sector.
What is required to effect the necessary transformation is the political will, the courage to take some hard decisions, and the setting up of some priorities. The key issue is political leadership.
Problems of partition
In the island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived together for centuries. Now, United Nations troops guard the border between them. Andros Kyprianou, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Progress Party of Working People in Cyprus (AKEL), explains the situation.
In July, 1974, the military junta then in power in Greece staged a coup against the President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, and his legal government. This was followed by a Turkish invasion from the mainland. Since then, the island has been artificially divided; 35 000 Turkish troops are stationed in the occupied areas, which form 37% of the territory, and 180 000 individuals are still refugees in their own country.
A number of UN Security Council resolutions have demanded the withdrawal
of the occupation troops and settlers, but Ankara and Denktash, the Turkish
Cypriot leader, have ignored them.
There has been no progress since 1974. Ankara and Denktash have been intransigent, and the international community, especially the USA and Britain, has been reluctant to exert any kind of pressure on them.
In spite of recent talks in Troutbeck and Montreux, the Security Council has stopped short of taking any kind of action. By this, we don't mean that the Greek Cypriot side expected the Security Council to take military action against Ankara and Denktash, but we did expect the Council at least to condemn the positions they had taken, and exert pressure on them to take up more positive positions.
Accession negotiations between the European Union and Cyprus are expected to begin next September. Akel believed this process could have been used to help with a solution to the problem. Unfortunately, officials of certain member-states - Italy, Germany and France - have, directly or indirectly, stated that the solution should come first.
At the same time, they have implied that the Turkish Cypriots should
participate in these talks as a separate entity. Our position is that they
should be part of the delegation of the Republic of Cyprus.
After all these negative developments, Cyprus is at a dangerous crossroads, closer than ever before to a legislated, de jure, division of the island.
We appeal to the international community to help us reach a just and viable solution to the problem. A solution which will safeguard the rights and interests of all Cypriots. A solution which will lead to a bizonal, bicommunal, federal state, with a singly sovereignty, single international personality, and single citizenship, and where human rights will be preserved.
of the Cuban Communist Party
At the time of our going to press, the Cuban Communist Party is preparing
for its historic Fifth Congress. The importance Cubans attach to this Congress
is clear from the 230 000 meetings held during the past year by all sections
of Cuban society, in preparation for adoption of the Party Programme, entitled,
"The Party of Unity, Democracy and the Human Rights We Defend."
Over 1 500 delegates will be present, elected at assemblies of the party at the municipal level. The Fifth Congress will evaluate the work carried out since the Fourth Congress in 1991, with special emphasis on analysing the economic situation, and progress in the face of the continuing US blockade. An article in in the official Party newspaper, "Granma", states: "we will continue to advance along the path of our socialism, with our battle standards held high."
Capitalism in crisis
"Asian tigers" becomming tame"
Over the last decade, what were called the "miracle" economies
of "Asian tigers" gave rise to the theory that the economic performance
of these countries held a secret that would revise world capitalism. Developing
countries, such as South Africa, were told that adopting "free market",
open economies, like the tigers' would ensure growth, employment and redistribution.
Delegations from South Africa have journeyed to the tigers, to see their methods. Some came back and told us that we could do it too, but we would have to swallow the economic medicine prescribed by the capitalist architects of these miracles. So, along came GEAR, hailed as a framework that would make us an African tiger. What lcal disciples of the tigers didn't bargain on was that the foundation of the miracle growth strategy was shaky, that the economic medicine was poison for the majority - that is, the workers and the poor. The tigers' main source of investment, and subsequent growth, was speculative. Capitalist jackals, in the form of mutual fund managers and investment bankers, poured in capital in their search for get-rich-quick opportunities. Last year alone, a reported R1 trillion from these sources were invested into the emerging markets of Asia, sending Asian stock markets soaring, and inflating the currencies.
Where did this investment go? Into promised infrastructural development? Into a sophisticated manufacturing industry? Into productivity and training of skilled workers? Most went into property speculation, that produced the wealth of the new Asian elite.
In the Philippines, the latest addition to the tiger club, one of the
busiest economic activities is building golf courses for the rich and the
small middle class, alongside theme parks and hotels for tourists. Last
year, property represented 60% of the Philippine stock market.
Exports have been promoted by the IMF, the World Bank, and transnational corporations. The corporations import raw materials and components, use cheap local labour to assemble finished products, and create little in the way of local manufacturing, or a firm base for sound economic development.
An illusion of growth emanated from privatisation programmes. Much foreign direct investment went into buying up state-owned assets, and did little to increase gross domestic product (GDP). High growth rates were related more to investment itself than to productivity.
The vast gap between the wealthy and the majority who live in dire poverty shows the hollowness of the growth. The consequences have been clearly visible: mass strikes and demonstrations in South Korea, growing worker resistance in the Philippines and Indonesia, and increasingly violent opposition in Malaysia.
A year ago, the bottom began to drop out of the boom, precipitated by
a decline in exports and global trade. Investment began to fall, growth
rates were stunted. Now, many of the tiger economies are in a currency
crisis. A weak industrial base, poor productivity and the rush of savings
into property speculation has left overvalued currencies vulnerable.
Thailand's currency was forced into a 20% devaluation. Threatened with collapse, Thailand was compelled to accept an R85 billion support package from the IMF, with the usual anti-people conditions. Then, the Philippine peso was devalued by 10%, forcing the governement to back it up by borrowing over R7 billion. In both countries, high interest rates were imposed to stem internal speculation - a measure that only reduces growth.
The latest victims have been Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia is trying to fend off a crisis by calling for a ban on currency trading, but the imperialists have laughed this off as ludicrous. The Indonesian government has announced deep, wide-ranging spending cuts and delays in major projects.
So much for the new, dynamic growth of world capitalism. We should remember
that it is the public sector and the people who are paying the price for
the economic "miracles" of the capitalists.