Labour Standards Bill
Why the delay?
The central principle of the apartheid system we fought against was massive, ruthless and institutionalised economic exploitation of the black majority. In towns and in rural areas, black workers were victims of low wages and terrible working conditions.
was for a better life. The primary demand was for one person one vote.
We wanted a people's parliament, elected by the majority, enacting legislation
to remove the injustices people suffered under.
We have a people's parliament now, and it is enacting progressive legislation. But there is still no law to protect workers' rights. That's the need the Employment Standards Bill was supposed to address.
The contentious clause in the Bill provides for "downward variations" in the law, to be decided by the minister, in consultation with the employers. COSATU oppose this form of rule by ministerial decree. Business at NEDLAC supports it, but it's interesting to note that some sectors of business are also unhappy about it; they feel it gives the Minister of Labour too much power to favour his friends.
The Minister has now withdrawn the Bill from Parliament till agreement is reached. He is supported in this by the NEC of the ANC, which, in its July statement, called for a "settlement" ... "as speedily as possible".
All this raises questions:
The Minister has told the press: "Without agreement on variation, we do not have a bill." What does he mean? Is he threateneing all the working people of the country, or does he mean "variations" are essential to any law? Do we need "variations" in the law against cocaine dealing, for example, or that which obliges drivers to stop at red lights?
Is compromise possible between "variations" and a firm law?
The matter goes to the very heart of the conflict of interests between employer and worker: profits versus wages and working conditions. Over a year and a half of negotiations, business and labour failed to reach consensus. Is it realistic to expect them to agree now?
While we wait, workers are still suffering under the old dispensation. Employers aren't suffering; their aim is for the old system of exploitation to go on for ever. Doesn't the situation put unfair pressure on labour to make concessions?
Why can't Parliament debate the Bill now, contentious clauses and all, and freely vote on it? Isn't that the kind of thing we elected our parliament for?
Whose interests is the Reserve Bank Serving?
By lifting controls on foreign exchange, the Reserve Bank has placed us in a contradictory situation. South Africa is still calling for foreign capital, while, at the same time, it's now exporting its own.
There's another paradox: with every rand exported, our need for foreign investment grows. Capital is exported at the expense of domestic investment and development.
The interest on overseas investments is difficult to trace; it's not difficult for South African with investments overseas to evade taxes here. The tax base of the country shrinks. While investors get richer, the government gets poorer. Money the government needs for transformation will be passing into private hands.
Those South Africans who are worried about "foreign nationals" and "illegal immigrants" working in South Africa and sending money home, might do well to start worrying about the activities of the big investors.
Foreign investors don't plough their dividends back into the country; they take them out. It's called "repatriating profits", as if the profits were going home, though they are created here, and nowhere else.
Big multinationals have ways of taking out capital, as well as profits. Big South African companies have their ethods, too. The South African mining corporation, Gencor, got R26 billion out of the country, and is now selling shares on the London Stock Exchange. This will mean that, in the future, the dividends from these shares - part of Gencor profits - will be "repatriated" to wherever the shareholders live.
The opportunity to export capital and to evade taxes, isn't, of course, available to most people. Only the rich have surplus money to export. The rest of us lucky enough to have savings need them for things like a house, or our children's education.
The Reserve Bank is serving its constituency well. No prizes for guessing what that constituency is.
Hit squads, violence and intimidation
Time for positive action
The recent five murders in the Ricmondin KwaZulu-Natal, and the murder of mine workes in the North-West, have several features in common. they all look likethe work of trained, professional killers, and they were clearly intended to intimidate.
They were all directed against agents of our transformation: local councils (two of the Richmond dead were newly-elected ANC councillors) and NUM platinum mining branches.
At Amplats, a union called Mouthpiece, formed earlier this year (and, unfortunately, encouraged by bantu Holomisa, who promised help it register), is openly threatening the NUM.
Since the beginning of May, five NUM members, including two shafts stewards, have been shot dead.
Threats have been made at Mouthpiece meeting. NUM members have been abducted and tortured, and released only after large randsoms have been paid. A home has been burned down.
The reponse of mine management has been to organise a "peace summit", which failed to stop the attacks. Most of murders and abductions have taken place on mine property: the union has accused management of not paying enough attention to the protection of its workers, and mine security of dragging its feet.
The people of Richmond don't trust the police. Nor does the NUM in the North-West, where people have not even been taken in for questioning, though Mouthpiece has made its threats openly, and crimes concerned are serious: murder, kidnapping, extortion.
We should ask ourselves who these people are, who are trained in the use of firearms and torture, and are interested un destabilising democratic institutions.
In its July statement, the NEC of the ANC noted concern at evidence of politically motivated crimes, carried out with military precision", and coinciding withnthe mass police resignations.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The SACP recently issued a statement condemning the performance of GEAR in relation to its promises of job creation, economic growth, and so on. It commended the South African Government for its constructive role in the Democratic Republic of Congo peace settlement, while criticising it for not intervening in the West Saharan affair with Morocco.
The statement addressed itself to the "border disputes", made an important observation about careerism among political elites, and called for a focus on developmental issues resolving the disputes.
I think credit is due to the SACP for its constructive and objective criticism of the government. Such criticism should help to maintain efficient delivery of our 1994 election promises.
But I think the SACP should guard against being reduced merely to a slogan production industry - "Coherent Industrial Policy" - "Development-Orientated Issues" - "No to Electoral and Careerist Positioning", and so on.
I am not suggesting that these are empty slogans. The point is, how do we match our slogan production process with effective and comprehensive policy formulation; how do we translate our slogans into policy and practice? I believe these are real issues that are being called for in the press statement.
How do we begin to develop a comprehensive industrial policy, to match the target that GEAR set itself, but failed to deliver?
GEAR has failed. Have we looked into the causes of the failure?
For instance, did we ever ask ourselves what could have charmed the government into adopting such an economic policy document?
What happened to the ANC economic policy vision that we have been talking about all along - a mixed economy, nationalisation and private enterprise in combination?
Again, take the issue of South African international relations - should we be making friends for trade reasons alone, or should we think about our friends during the dark days of apartheid? I believe the SACP should produce policy guidelines on international relations, bringing on board the questions of ideology (friends are made on the basis of ideology) and trade, in some combination.
On the question of ideology, I suppose, for instance, that it's easy for the SACP to support friendship with Cuba, because we share the same ideology, and because of the contribution Cuba made in the struggle for liberation of South Africa. It is not so easy for the ANC, as the leading partner in government, which is constrained by the complexities of the neo- liberalising world. The SACP faces major challenges. It must prove itself a true vanguard of the working class. It must forge unity within the working class and the broad mass movement, including the emerging bourgeoisie and the old, repentant bourgeoisie.
The working class, because it is the majority class, needs to exercise its hegemony within this national democratic tradition. Unity with the bourgeoisie is necessary during the national democratic transition, and under present circumstances, where neo-liberal forces dominate throughout the world, and where strategic retreats and compromises are necessary.
The Party needs to constantly engage the present bourgeois parliamentary processes, to strike deals for the working class.
To live up to these ideals, we need a better-organised party, that is constantly in touch with its constituencies (to use a liberal term).
SACP Daveyton Branch.
UNMASKING THE NEW ECONOMIC-SPEAK
This month, Dale McKinley tackles another term that has become part of our political `lingo':
This word understandably causes great confusion. When it started being commonly used, in the early 1980s, it seemingly referred to the economic policies of the Reagan and Thatcher governments at the time. As the years passed, it came to embrace a more global reference to such policies, broadly understood as propagating less government and more private sector involvement in core economic decisions.
All along, the use of the term has assumed that the policies are, in some way, connected to classical `liberalism' - that is, a tolerant and progressive approach to human activity.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There's very little that's liberal about neo-liberalism.
However, broad acceptance of the term has allowed capitalist forces to claim monopoly of concepts like freedom, tolerance, creativity and choice. No wonder the Left now finds itself using a term that further serves to mystify the old capitalist agenda.
Neo-liberalism falsely claims the following:
- `De-regulation' of global commerce, in which the (big, bad) national state is pushed to the economic margins by global `individuals' exercising `free choice'.
- Freeing the entrepreneurial spirit from the shackles of the state by changing economic ownership over to these global `individuals' through methods such as privatisation.
- Allowing all `individuals' to choose their level of social well-being by consuming the services of these global `individuals', instead of being given services by the state.
- Let's get back to reality. These fantasies of neo-liberalism are nothing more than:
- A capitalist policy agenda that exploited the space allowed by the previously dominant (and failed) top-down, commandist, welfare state models.
- Re-regulated (not de-regulated) global capitalism, in which the rules of the game are set by transnational companies in conjunction with core capitalist states.
- A new role for the national state, of vigorously facilitating the interests of the big companies.
- Allowing the big companies to take further control of productive and social power, in pursuit of their own profits.
- Institutionalising the big finance houses world-wide, like the IMF and the World Bank, and so further weakening the economic sovereignty of certain countries, mainly the developing countries.
- Increasing capitalist control of the world economy by subordinating all economic policy to export-led growth, international competitiveness and strict control of money supplies.
- Manipulating the debt issue to halt state expenditure on people's basic needs, while at the same time encouraging states to borrow for projects that advance the interests of capital.
- Pushing the benefits of compacts between state, labour and capital, as a means of weakening the working class, and co- opting the state into a neutral role.
Within this new imperialist framework, we see the effects of neo-liberalism:
There we have it - neo-liberalism by any other name is still imperialism.
Red Stars and Thumbs Down
to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU) for courageously standing up for public sector workers' rights to a decent living wage.
NEHAWU has made it clear that it won't stand for a situation in which the vast majority of workers in the public sector are grossly underpaid, and where privatisation initiatives represent a constant threat to job security and creation. NEHAWU has issued a reminder to government that workers will fight the neo-liberal agenda of GEAR. Raise the red star high, NEHAWU!
to the mass democratic organisations in Kenya, for their heroic struggles against the corrupt and anti- democratic Moi regime
THREE THUMBS DOWN to state arms manufacturer, DENEL, for its apartheid-era arrogance in attempting to sell arms to an unnamed Middle Eastern country, and gag the press. Why is it so secretive? What is it ashamed of? Red Star wants to suggest the Ministry of Defence pulls the plug on these war-mongering games.
TWO THUMBS DOWN to Roelf Meyer and Bantu Holomisa for attempting to manipulate a right-wing populist agenda in hopes of establishing their new political party. These two politicians seem unable to accept the democratic verdict of the populace. Their activities remind Red Star of earlier abortive attempts by self-proclaimed populists to offer a so-called political `alternative'. Obviously, Meyer and Holomisa have yet to learn that most valuable of lessons - to shut up, if you don't have anything to say!
Good Government The need for dedicated public servants
Northern Province structures of the SACP, ANC, COSATU and SANCO have jointly declared their support for provincial premier, Ngoako Ramathlodi, in the recent provincial cabinet reshuffle. Takalani Nwedamutswu, of Matangori SACP branch, explains the background.
The reshuffle has provided an important entry-point for the ANC and the Alliance, to arrest the decay that was encroaching in the province. It provides an opportunity for a united, collective leadership that would concentrate its energies on delivery. The challenge is for comrades to put our political task before destructive, opportunistic and undisciplined personal ambitions.
Reshuffling and redeployment in the provincial legislature was long overdue, as the political situation was fast deteriorating into a free-for-all for administrative and political opportunism, fomented by tribal groupings. Ethnic groupings had been taken into account when the provincial cabinet was formed, but some communities, were dissatisfied, because they felt that regions had not been fully represented.
Another problem was that many felt delivery had been ineffective and unimaginative, that the provincial government was relying too much on "experts" and neglected to consult thoroughly with communities and labour unions. There were revelations about inappropriate use of government resources: for instance, funds were allocated to building a parliamentary complex, while there is still a desperate shortage of affordable housing.
Forces like the National Party, and its surrogates, hoped to capitalise on the situation, and were starting to make noises about "corruption" and "maladministration". The situation needed to be resolved, by strategies that would not lead us into enemy traps.
A crisis developed: individuals were using the media to put pressure on provincial premier, Ngoako Ramathlodi, to resign, ostensibly to "solve the problem". This move was finally rejected by Alliance structures, after several heated meetings.
The reshuffle sends a good signal to our constituency, that our government is serious about delivery and good governance. What has happened is an important reminder to all of us, within and outside government, that political office is on the basis of effectively carrying out a set mandate; hence comrades can be withdrawn from positions if their performance is unsatisfactory.
Political leadership should be matched by sound strategic vision, which brings together government, governance, administration, labour, civil society and communities, in a coherent, collective effort to build a new society. For this to happen, we need creative and competent people staffing government departments, people who are committed to making the public service an asset in a delivery informed by RDP principles. We need to be firm in rooting out corruption and inefficiency, and aggressive in developing the skills of our civil service.
Northern Province and Mpumalanga: Joint statement
The border between Northern Province and Mpumalanga, near Bushbuckridge, is one of those surviving from the old bantustan days. The SACP Central Committee commented in June that "imaginative solutions" should be found to the problems of these borders, "so that provincial boundaries do not block municipal level redistribution."
The SACP provincial executives of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga have issued a joint statement, saying that, "the crisis in question requires a broader re-look and understanding of various processes that preceded the present phase," and that "it's critical to project a national perspective on demarcation issues."
The joint resolution also says:
"South Africa is three years old from the yoke of ethnic and racial balkanisation consciousness. Today, our country has a constitution that closes that sad chapter of history. As the SACP, we commit ourselves to make a contribution in building a united and non-racial South Africa within the framework of this constitution.
"We commit ourselves to be part of the broader process in the resolution of the present crisis in Groblersdal and Bushbuckridge. However, we argue that the solution to the present crisis is not located in political trade-offs."
The statement expresses opposition to all forms of violence and intimidation
as a solution, and calls for the return of stability and tranquillity in
all affected areas.
The provincial executives say, "We commit ourselves to a process of consultation with all relevant structures." Both believe that, in seeking solutions to the Bushbuckridge "border dispute", the interests of the people of Bushbuckridge should be the most important consideration.
Eighteen Miners Die at Hartebeesfontein
COSATU "SADDENED AND ANGERED"
When an earth tremor caused a rockfall, killing 18 mineworkers at Hartebeestfontein in the North-West Province, the co- ordinator of rescue work told the press that the disaster was the worst in the three and a half years he had been working there. The worst? How many other disasters have there been, in that one mine alone?
Expressing its "shock and grief" at these deaths, COSATU says,
"It is quite unacceptable for the death toll to continue mounting at this rate." It points out that another tremor killed ten workers at Deelkraal a few months ago.
Speaking at Deelkraal, Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, Penuel Maduna, promised R26 million to conduct investigations into the rate of fatal mining accidents. COSATU says it is "saddened and angered" by the fact that this money has not yet been released, and calls for immediate action from the government.
Deputy Minister Susan Shabangu has promised an official investigation to determine the cause of the disaster at Hartebeestfontein.
Turning the Tables on Globalisation
A discussion with Samir Amin
The well-known international political economist, Samir Amin, led a discussion at a seminar on globalisation, held in July by the SACP National Political Education Secretariat. We outline here the major points of the discussion.
Globalisation is often seen as objective reality, an unchangeable force. It is nothing of the sort; it represents the present strategy of dominant capital.
It is the result, not of the failure of past societal projects, but of their success. The history of capitalist development, from national to imperialist, makes clear that globalisation represents a new stage of imperialism.
It does so by fostering a more intense growth of inequality. It creates financial outlets for vast amoumts of surplus and unproductive capital, as an attempt to manage the crisis of capital. It seeks to manage world-wide trade on the terms of transnational corporations.
In the philosophy of globalisation, political importance is given to measures such as privatisation, which is no more than increased inequality without growth. When national assets are privatised, it is a few local people who buy the shares, gain control, and become a local bourgeoisie, an elite few.
Multinational companies and international financiers seek to create and maintain allies in the form of these local bourgeois classes (in the case of South Africa, a black bourgeoisie) which will help them to manage the new phase of capitalist crisis.
Progressive social and political forces have so far failed to produce real anti-globalisation strategies, but it's not in the interests of capitalism to allow globalisation to wait for the majority to `catch up' or `catch on'. The Left should work on the principle that: globalisation must accept and adjust to the demands and needs of the majority of humanity (that is, the workers and the poor) rather than the other way round.
Samir Amin suggests that existing power relationships, the balance of forces in the world, can be modified only by the exploited countries and peoples themselves, together with all "progressive mass formations." He defines progressive movements as those "whose demands combine with the struggle against social exploitation and for the extension of democracy."
He suggests the formation of regional blocs of resistance - the Arab, Latin American, African, South-East Asian blocs. Strengthened by these alliances, national states may begin to build "economies that serve the peoples of the world."
We must be able to imagine, and begin to make real, the bringing together of all those sectors of society (not only the organised working class) with a stake in transcending globalisation. It can be done, and it must be done.
Time running out for Arap Moi
Kenyan President, Daniel Arap Moi, and his ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party are in trouble. After 20 years under autocratic rule, the Kenyan people, no doubt inspired by events in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, are propelling the Moi regime towards the exit gate. But what will replace it?
For over three decades, the vast majority of Kenyan people have endured severe state-sponsored political repression, as well as the worst effects of capitalist economic strangulation. In classical neo-colonialist mould, the local elites, in (unequal) partnership with their international imperialist masters, have systematically sucked Kenya dry.
Massive inequalities of wealth, large-scale unemployment, lack of economic
infrastructure, unequal land ownership, and growing class oppression, have
been the foundation on which Arap Moi and his friends have thrived. Coupled
with this has been increasing suppression of political freedoms, like trade
unions and progressive political opposition.
It is not as though the Kenyan people have been sitting around all this time. Radical mass opposition to the Moi regime has never been far below the surface. The recent events are only the latest in a long series of battles, waged by Kenyans on many different fronts, for democratic control of society. The stated demands for constitutional reform and free elections are the immediate manifestation. It is indicative of the waning fortunes of the present regime, that Moi has responded by hastily announcing moves to accomodate the demands.
Previous struggles have, unfortunately, foundered on the rocks of political opportunism, cults of personality, lack of clear political programmes, and ethnic division - always encouraged, in one way or another, by the imperialist powers.
The question therefore remains the degree to which the genuine anger and desire for change on the part of the Kenyan people can be translated into an equally genuine poltical and economic transformation. That will take political maturity, and a clear transitional programme from the ranks of a still-divided opposition.
The people's indignation should be channelled in a systematic way as a weapon for meaningful social change, rather than plastic surgery.
HOW THEY VOTED
In the Tokyo Metropolitan elections, held on July 7th, the Japanese Communist Party came second, with 26 seats. The leading party was the Liberal Democratic Party, with 54 seats.
This result represents a significant gain for the Communists, who came fourth in the 1993 election, with only 13 seats.
After 70 years in power, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexico, suffered severe defeats in the important industrial state of Nuevo Leon, and in Mexico City, in the depressed economic heartland of the country. Mexico City's first-ever mayoral election was won by a candidate from the left-wing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD).
However, in the elections for the national assembly, there is no victory for the Left yet. With 84% of the polling stations counted, the PRI had won 38.6% of the vote, and the balance went to the right-wing National Action Party, (PAN) with 27.2%, and 25.7% for the PRD.
West Bengal communist Chief Minister meets SACP
The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, a veteran leader of the Indian Communist Party (Marxist), held a discussion with the SACP, during his recent visit to South Africa.
The Left Front government in West Bengal, led by the Communist Party (Marxist) has been in place for 20 years. It has enacted legislation protecting the rights of workers to strike without police intervention on the side of management, the right to security for tenant farmers, and the right of sharecroppers to a proportion of their produce. The result of the land reforms has been a huge growth in food production.
The CP(M) is not satisfied with its achievements, though. It exists within a bourgeois-landlord economic order. It works under the constraints of the Indian constitution, which gives central government the right to decide what share of taxes to give the individual states, and to dismiss state governments altogether. Before the 1977 elections, the Left Front government of West Bengal was dismissed several times (as was the Communist government in the state of Kerala).
Along the way, the Left Front suffered massive persecution. Between 1967 and 1971, 6 000 people were arrested, 12 shot dead, and thousands beaten up by the police. Between 1971 and1977, 12 000 were martyred, and over 20 000 families had to move to safer places. However, at each election, it has been returned with a greater support base, and now, the CP (M) itself commands an absolute majority in the West Bengal assembly. The going is still rough. Central government has starved the state of funds, refused permission to set up major industries in the state, and taken other measures to stifle economic growth. Legislation passed by the state has been denied presidential assent for years on end. (Information from an article by Harkishan Singh Surjeet, in the Australian Communist newspaper, The Guardian.)