Where have all the jobs gone?
South Africa is in a dilemma. The government has admitted that GEAR has been wholly unable to meet even its minimal job creation targets and business arrogantly marches on in its pursuit of profits through massive retrenchments. The SACP calls for a clear industrial policy in which job creation is a key component, and a renewed commitment to a transformed and interventionist public sector capable of implementing a mass-driven job creation programme.
The best-kept secret in South Africa is out of the closet GEAR's projected job creation has not materialised despite limited growth in the economy. The latest figures reveal that in the first quarter of 1997, South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) fell 0.8%, with a forecasted growth rate for 1997 below 2,5%. The SACP had previously warned about such jobless growth, clearly stating that any economic policy relying heavily on the private sector for job creation was headed for failure. The job creation 'partnership' between government and business is now in serious trouble.
GEAR has failed to create jobs precisely because job policy formulation is hostage to GEAR's over-reliance on the private sector and obsession with deficit reduction. When policy is driven primarily by market-related financial concerns that favour those who already possess resources, it severely limits the ability of all levels of government to spur job creation programmes that favour the majority of our people. GEAR's emphasis on privatising public infrastructure and services makes the provision of basic needs hostage to the whims of the market.
Business, in its pursuit of profit, does not find it profitable to play a concrete role in addressing the stark economic and social inequalities in our country. As COSATU President, cde. John Gomomo recently stated: "There is a vast difference between programming a computer to project on jobs and the real thing. Predicting that business will invest in jobs is a far cry from getting them to invest. All they do is ask for more." A macro-economic strategy GEARed to prioritising private sector investment in the search for job creation, is simply an unrealistic means of tackling the lack of job opportunities for the majority.
It is clearer than ever that we need a dynamic partnership for job creation between a progressive state and the democratic movement, as set out in the RDP. We are not talking about a top-down, bureaucratic process that dictates job policy and programmes. Rather, we are saying that the state, in conjunction with our movement and progressive community structures, must forge a clear and binding strategic programme for job creation.
Such a programme would require the identification of specific means of financing, the prioritisation of needs, time frames for implementation and above all, the active, mandated involvement of the masses. Among the inter-related components of this programme would be:
- a clear industrial policy grounded in spurring domestic production for job creation
- the popularisation and empowerment of community-based public works programmes
- the implementation of labour intensive public works projects (work brigades)
- a sustained focus on the provision of basic services to the most underprivileged sectors of our society
- the provision, through the public works programmes, of waged employment to the most vulnerable sectors of communities
- the establishment of a public works strategic policy unit
Job creation is the key to the reconstruction and development of South Africa's distorted political economy. It is a committed, progressive and democratised public sector in partnership with the majority of our people hat can and should lead this challenge!
People before Profits!
Turmoil on the right
The left remains coherent and strong
Recent events have seen increasing confusion and disarray amongst
the political forces of the right. While this comes as little surprise,
and is to be welcomed by the Left, we should continue to guard against
the desperate kicks of the dying horse that is the National Party. Our
insurance is a strong Alliance that serves the interests of the majority
of people in our country.
Over the last weeks, there has been growing turmoil inside of the National Party. One of the NP's younger leading lights, Roelf Meyer has walked out of the party and many who remain in the NP are keen to leave. This follows a similar side-lining of the more imaginative and younger leadership of the IFP, centred around Ziba Jiyane.
Both processes have similar origins. The IFP and the NP are, in electoral terms, largely ethnic parties, each with a relative majority in one of our nine provinces. Both are products of our apartheid past. The dilemma that both party's face is: should they transform into "normal", non-ethnic, centre-right formations and thus stand some theoretical chance of winning national elections in the distant future? Or should they at least hold on to their core base?
The first option, the direction in which Meyer and Jiyane were trying to travel, risks losing even the core base in exchange for nothing very certain. The second option, holding on to an ethnic base, is a strategy without dynamic prospects - since it depends on fears and grudges, and it is rooted in constituencies that are diminishing numerically.
Roelf Meyer is not necessarily more enlightened than FW De Klerk - Meyer was, after all, a key architect of the NP's brutal National Security Management System in the second half of the 1980s. Meyer (like Jiyane) simply represents one strategic option as opposed to another in attempting to defend a conservative agenda in our country.
F De Klerk's problems are even more complex than this. In the first half of the 1990s, De Klerk was happy to present himself as the De Klerk of February 2, 1990, as the architect of the negotiated settlement (as if he wasn't being pushed from below all the way). It is, therefore, interesting to note how it was that De Klerk presented himself to the TRC in May this year. By his own account he was no longer De Klerk of February 1990. Instead he presented himself as in the tradition of PW Botha. He and PW, he claims, were not responsible for apartheid, they were both reforming it!
This is FW trying to conserve his old NP constituency. But even on this tack he is less than convincing. He has failed to assume responsibility for the thousands of Third Force operations, leaving many of his own security force personnel to swim for themselves.
If there are internal dilemmas for our political opponents on the right, these have only be worsened by the unity of the ANC and its alliance. FW De Klerk and Roelf Meyer entered the negotiations process back in 1990 with the advice of Washington-based think-tanks in their pockets. This US advice, based on so-called "negotiated transitions" theory, counselled that relatively successful negotiated transitions involve the "centrists" of the incumbent forces and the opposition forces "finding each other". In the process the right and the left are shed away.
Much to the frustration of FW De Klerk, Roelf Meyer and Tony Leon, the left within the broad ANC-led alliance has not peeled away. No wonder Tony Leon was whingeing in Parliament at the end of May, during Minister of Labour, cde Tito Mboweni's budget debate. Leon has tried to incite the ANC and government to break its alliance with COSATU, calling COSATU "a powerful organisation which could have a disruptive and destructive influence."
Leon is correct about one thing. COSATU and the left in general within our country remain powerful and well connected. We have not withered away. And we have no intention of abandoning our alliance with the ANC.
COSATU policy conference
Mobilise for social equity and job creation
Kim Jurgensen, COSATU Communications Officer, discusses the main
issues raised at the recent COSATU Policy Conference. While making it clear
its opposition to GEAR as the programmatic basis for socio-economic transformation,
COSATU has called for the state and workers to play a much more proactive
role in ensuring the delivery of social equity and job creation.
COSATU recently held a Policy Conference to look at a broad range of issues based on the theme "Burying Apartheid Poverty". One of the key areas we looked at was that of employment creation. As is common knowledge, the three economic strategy documents (Social Equity, Growth for All and GEAR) all claim to be able to create a large number of jobs.
The "Growth for All" document never mentioned job creation and proposed many dangerous features for the working class such as privatisation, low wages and a dual labour market system.The "Social Equity and Job Creation" document contained concrete proposals around a programme of job creation, redistributive fiscal policies, breaking-up economic concentration, promoting worker rights and industrial democracy.
Based on the ANC's rejection of the "Growth for All" strategy, it was surprising to see the government produce a similar but differently packaged document under a new name GEAR.When comrade Trevor Manuel presented it to parliament, he stated that "the major challenge facing our country is the creation of jobs (GEAR) will make a significant difference to the ability of this economy to address this fundamental challenge."
Less than a year after these famous words, evidence shows that GEAR is not living up to its own expectations. A senior official in the Finance Department recently stated that the "government is on track to meet all its other commitments in terms of GEAR", but was "less confident about job creation targets". This is exactly what COSATU warned in its initial response to GEAR. We said that GEAR would be judged, first and foremost, by its impact on the working class and that rather than creating the envisaged 400 000 new jobs annually would increase the gap between the poor and the rich and condemn the homeless and jobless into extreme levels of poverty.
COSATU has, more than once, stated that the best way to create jobs is to engage in massive public works programmes for roads, houses, infrastructure etc. There must be a clear and defined role for the state in the creation of jobs and infrastructural development, particularly in rural poor areas. The budget must therefore be a tool of the government to implement policies that ensure the redistribution of resources.
Conference argued that there is a need to move away from GEAR because it stifles both employment and economic growth and condemns the poor and unemployed to perpetual poverty. We also affirmed the need for a social wage to alleviate poverty and provide support for the unemployed. Furthermore, the government needs to take responsibility for developing industrial and economic policies that promote employment creation and advance the RDP.
On the proposed Job Summit, Conference re-stated COSATU's position that such a summit must not be rushed into. Government's GEAR, and Business's "Growth for All" are sure recipes for a deadlocked summit. Rather, the Alliance needs to hold a series of meetings to discuss this issue, which will then result in a conference on employment creation. As the Alliance, we need to define the positions and responsibilities of all the parties. This then must become the guiding input for any other forum on this issue. COSATU believes that the real debates must take place in NEDLAC, and NEDLAC must use its structures to find agreement and solutions to the unemployment crisis.
Conference also noted that the labour movement must take responsibility for areas where we have failed in terms of socio-economic policies. As an example, we proposed a 4% payroll levy be introduced for larger companies, to finance the training of workers. This 4% target should be reached by October 1998. However, we have done nothing to campaign around this proposal as yet.
COSATU needs to vehemently mobilise workers around the Social Equity and Job Creation document and recommit ourselves to the proposals we made there.
Letter to the EDITOR
Rape is Violence!
Cde. Jenny Schreiner's challenging input on the crime of rape in Umsebenzi (February) should be welcomed. In a recent rape case of a Mrs. "T" in the Jhb. Magistrate Court, the public defender (Mr. H. Horn) was reported to have argued, in mitigation of sentence, that Mrs. "T" had not been seriously injured during the rape. The magistrate, Mr. L. Van der Schyff, imposed a 5 year sentence, saying it was lighter than usual due to lack of physical injuries.
The realisation that rape is a violent act has clearly not dawned on these insensitive and sexist court officials. Why do women have to be physically injured before stiffer sentences can be imposed? What about the psychological and emotional injuries suffered? A 5 year sentence for Mr. Saptoe is unacceptably light, there should be a minimum sentence of 15-20 years!
We can no longer tolerate rapists. Let us all join in the struggle to defeat the war being waged against women and children in our homes and on the streets!
SACP Gauteng Provincial Organisor
The Basics of Historical Materialism
Umsebenzi completes its three-part series on the basics of marxism with an outline of the core components of historical materialism. An understanding of this concept serves to ground our revolutionary struggle in the ever-dynamic realities of class struggle and the need for revolutionary political organisation and leadership.
Tied to both the philosophy and economics of Marxism - and combining both of them - is Marx's concept of historical materialism. Marx shows us that history is made by humans, not by some so-called 'destiny' or supernatural entity. Simply put, history is the life of people and within the dialectical materialist understanding it is also the history of class struggle.
Over time, social and economic relations evolved, characterised by a relationship of exploiters and exploited and the development of specific classes and relations of production between them. It is the combination of these relations of production and the productive forces (i.e. units of production) that Marx called the mode of production.
The successive appearance and disappearance of certain modes of production eventually gave us the capitalist mode of production. Marx shows us how the laws of historical development (as mentioned above) determines the sequence of modes of production (i.e. from primitive to slavery, from feudalism to capitalism).
Even though this sequence is logical, history does not make humankind, but humans make history and thus it is necessary for humans (specifically the proletariat) to struggle for change, for socialist revolution, for power. It is the proletariat - due to its relationship to capital - that is the social force capable of overthrowing capitalism. But it can only do so through unity, organisation and collective power (the working class as an organised class).
We can grasp, from a historical materialist approach, the neccessity of revolutionary action and organisation. It is through such struggle that the strategic necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat becomes a possibility.
In order to realise such a struggle there must be the development of a class consciousness (i.e., understanding the conditions and relations under which that class lives and 'one's' place therein). In turn, such consciousness allows a politicisation to take place among the workers. This requires not only an organised working class but a political formation (a party, a union) capable of politicising that class consciousness, of preparing for revolutionary class struggle.
It is ultimately though, the workers who will free themselves. The ultimate character of this struggle depends on human initiative, on understanding the tasks, and the efficiency of leadership.
The right and crime in the N. Province
Justice Piitso. Northern Province PEC member and Chairperson of the SACP Sekhukhune Central District, discusses the various ways in which right-wing forces in the province are attempting to destabilise the efforts of the democratic movement. Decisive initiatives need to be taken to deal with this growing menace.
Despite visible delivery of essential services to the rural poor in the country since the April 1994 breakthrough, it has become clear that anti-transformational forces remain active. Even though this is a national problem, these forces are earmarking the Northern Province in particular, a densely populated region that voted overwhelming for the ANC in 1994.
While our movement is faced with the challenge of overcoming the devastating socio- economic legacy left behind by apartheid, the agenda of the right-wing forces is to desatbilise our efforts. Their immediate aim is to identify the most burning issues in the communities and then to create the impression that the progressive forces in the province are both unwilling and unable to address them.
Specifically, the National Party is most certainly behind the 'deployment' of vigilante groups whose stated aim is to "combat crime'. For example, the "Mapogo a mathamaga" (a vigilante group associated with certain business leaders), are undermining the legitimacy of our new democracy by taking the law into their own hands. In recent months, these vigilantes, in the name of 'keeping law and order', have conducted numerous assaults on targeted individuals and refused co-operation with the police.
We must not be fooled by these so-called 'enforcers of the law'. Crime is an issue that involves social relations and our democratic movement needs to strengthen our structures so as to effectively deal with the root causes. The movement must come out with a specific vision and programme of action for community policing forums instead of going out and merely making these structures part of an electioneering problem.
The right-wing forces are also attempting to use governmental structures as tools to foment crime. In our province public funds are being stolen to finance the vigilante groups and corrupt bureaucrats facilitate the operation of crime syndicates within the government itself.
It is the public sector that must drive the process of our reconstruction and development efforts to liberate the workers and poor. The right-wing forces want to disrupt these efforts.
We should not hesitate to stamp out such criminal elements and activities as a way of striving for a crime-free community and an efficient public administration.
Back to basics
Do we need a fresh approach to the ABC's?
David Makhura, NEHAWU National Education Secretary, argues for a re-think in our approach to the ABCs of revolutionary struggle in our transition. In doing so, we must understand the need for a comprehensive cadreship development programme that speaks to the new circumstances and challenges.
In recent months, Alliance partners have made very important interventions at the level of public debate through the release of discussion documents. From this ongoing process, two strategic observations can be made:
- the discussions have restored, at least for now, a culture of open, frank and fearless debate that was beginning to fade
- a clear difference about what exactly constitutes the ABCs of our NDR today. For example, if
GEAR becomes a key component of ANC cadreship development, the cadre
produced would be different from those of its alliance partners who are
disputing the strategic thrust of GEAR.
If it is true that we need to go "back to basics", which basics are we talking about? What type of cadres do we need today and for what should we be building cadres?
We can no longer assume that we share the same basics, the same vision and the same strategic objective for transformation.
We must remind ourselves that we are striving for fundamental, socialist transformation of society. We want to build socialist cadres in the current transition. This means at least four things:
1. At the level of delivery of public services and goods, our cadre needs to adopt a socialist work ethic by being operationally efficient and delivering quality service to members of the public, as well as striving to link workers' problems with those of the wider working class communities.
2. At the organisational level, this new cadre will need to take seriously the challenge of running a working class organisation in a professional and systematic manner. There is nothing revolutionary about being haphazard and disorganised.
3. At the more strategic and broader political level, our cadre needs to fight for the defence of the public domain as opposed to the market, the socialisation of the state rather than its marketisation. We must defend our values of collectivity, social equity and socio- economic justice against the capitalist 'dog-eat-dog' ideology.
4. In all the above-mentioned levels, our new cadre needs to grasp the complexity of the relationship between class and gender struggle. We need to break with that component of our marxist theoretical legacy that treats gender simply as a function of class and understand the historical specificity of gender oppression.
We need an all-round cadreship development programme in order to produce all-round cadres. This cadre will be prepared for a multiplicity of tasks in unions, other working class organisations and in a working class-led democratic state. In this context, a "back to basics" call is not some pre-occupation with the good old days. It is an understanding of the need to do solid on-going political education under new conditions, facing new challenges.
Repression in Indonesia
No friend of South Africa's Workers and poor
Indonesian dictator Suharto, and his military thugs, continue to intensify their campaign of terror against their own population and the people of East Timor. Physical extermination of 'state enemies', imprisonment of political dissidents, banning of union activity and rigged elections these are the staple diet of Indonesia's and East Timor's long-suffering people. And yet, in the face of such ongoing repression, our government continues to pursue political and economic ties with this neo-fascist state.
Since the 1965 slaughter of hundreds of thousands of communists by President Suharto's military-backed dictatorship (assisted by the USA), Indonesia has been a one-party dictatorship. For the last three decades, Suharto and his cronies have ruled the country with an iron fist and since 1975 have illegally occupied the island of East Timor.
In spite of Suharto's reign of terror, progressives and the organised Left in Indonesia and East Timor continue to engage in their struggle for freedom. Students and workers remain at the forefront of the people's struggles to introduce democracy and basic human rights in a country which is praised by international capitalists for its 'pro-western' stance and 'sound' economic policies. No doubt, these capitalists were overjoyed with the pre-determined outcome of the recent national elections, held on 29 May. Suharto's political organisation GOLKAR was once again returned to power. Like most dictatorships, no real political opposition or activity is allowed, with two other 'approved' political parties giving the sham appearance of democratic choice. The only real political opposition comes from the outlawed People's
Democratic Party (PRD) and from the majority section of the Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI) whose leader, Megawati Sukarnoputra, was ousted before the elections took place. Both the PRD and Megawati called for a successful boycott of the election in spite of massive intimidation and violence by Suharto's regime. Not content with rigging the elections, Suharto's regime has sentenced the leader of the PRD, Budiman Sujatmiko, to 13 years imprisonment and locked up a host of other opposition political and worker activists on trumped-up charges. In East Timor, the leader of the East Timorese liberation movement, Xanana Gusmao, is serving a 20 year prison sentence.
Despite the repression in Indonesia and East Timor, the South African government continues to forge political and economic ties with the Suharto regime. This, in spite of repeated calls by the internal mass opposition movements and internationally to sever ties with the dictatorship. The argument for a 'constructive engagement' with the Suharto dictatorship is nothing more than an excuse for the failure to act on our own political principles and to express concrete solidarity with those struggling for freedom. Indeed, it must surely remind many South Africans of the same justification for the USA's own 'constructive engagement' with the apartheid regime.
In light of our own movement's struggle against repression and stated commitment to human rights and democracy, it is imperative that there be unequivocal support for the freedom fighters of Indonesia and East Timor. The principles of our own struggle, specifically internationalist solidarity, must not be sacrificed on the altar of economic expediency and so-called political 'pragmatism'.
DOWN WITH THE SUHARTO DICTATORSHIP! SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE OF INDONESIA & EAST TIMOR!
Labour Party Landslide and the left
The landslide victory of the Labour Party in the British general elections on May 1 is a sharp rejection of neo-liberal austerity, writes Jeremy Cronin. The very policies that Business SA wants to foist on us here in South Africa, have now met with massive rejection in one of the heart-lands of capitalism itself.
The results of the British election should neither be under-rated, nor exaggerated. Those who argue that there is "no difference" between a Labour and a Conservative majority are profoundly wrong. At the very least, the result reflects a huge popular groundswell of anger against years of hard-nosed capitalist rule.
Over some two decades, Thatcher and Major, in the name of "freeing the market", have dismantled the welfare system, sold off major public utilities, and generally fostered a society of growing inequality in which self-enrichment is the core morality. But the platform of 'New' Labour is itself vague. New Labour is certainly not committed to a return to full-blooded welfarism, nor will it seek to re-nationalise privatised public utilities. While a minority of the party leadership speak of socialism, the majority leadership has quietly let the idea slip. New Labour is calling for a "stake- holder" capitalism. It puts little emphasis on changing private ownership, but rather on greater regulation of capital, and on increasing, through pension funds and other means, the stake of workers in the capitalist economy.
Against the back-ground of years of neglect, New Labour is putting a great deal of emphasis on improved education, arguing that greater "fairness" in education, will actually produce a more "competitive", a more "productive" economy.
Herein lies the greatest vagueness in the platform of New Labour. Basically it is a platform that seeks to "square the circle". It wants more fairness, more equity, more sense of community. But it wants to argue that these are, in any case, always more efficient from a market and capitalist point of view.
This is only partly true. More equity might result in higher productivity. But it is not just workers, or future workers, who are entitled to greater equity, or more community. The old, the sick, the unemployed are also entitled to a life of dignity, regardless of "market-place" logic.
For the moment, New Labour wants the best of both worlds. Sooner or later it, and the people of Britain, will encounter hard choices. Without an agenda for the progressive weakening of capitalist rule, the aspirations that millions of Britons voted for on May 1 will be undermined.
The left searchers for a new pact
Yunus Carrim, SACP Central Committee member and National MP, recently attended the Second National Congress of the Italian PDS (Democratic Party of the Left) on behalf of the SACP. He reports on the debates and decisions at the Congress.
"Integration" was the theme of the PDS Congress integration of the Left, integration of Italy and integration into Europe. It was debates around this essentially, around the nature of the new identity being forged for the Left and for Italy that the Congress revolved.
The Congress, which was held in Rome from 20-23 February, drew just over 1000 delegates and several thousand observers. It was the first Congress since the founding of the PDA in 1991 and the victory of the centre-left "Olive Tree" coalition in the general elections of April 1996 (45% of the vote). The PDS is the main core of the former Italian Communist Party (dissolved in 1991) and is the largest party in the Olive Tree coalition. The coalition includes
the Social Populists, Left Socialists and Greens, supported by the Refoundation Communist Party (RCP) and the small Unitarian Communists A key concern of the Congress was to receive a mandate to pursue greater unity within the coalition and possibly dissolve the PDS to make way for a new, broader Social Democratic- type party. The RCP rejected being a part of the proposed new party, arguing that such a party could only be based on the abandonment of marxism altogether, and the adoption of a neo-liberal agenda. The major trade union federation linked to the PDS, CGIL, also expressed severe reservations about the direction being taken by the PDS.
Underlying the Congress was a recognition that the Italian state and society have to be modernised against the background of globalisation and a united Europe. In the debates about the restructuring of the "welfare state" the majority view was that there is a need for a new "social pact" between the citizens and the state. It was argued that the present "pact" (in place since the Second World War) is based on the "privileged position of the adult male worker" and does not benefit large disadvantaged sectors of society.
The Congress endorsed the need for a "new reunification of Italy", through new forms of integrating the richer northern and poorer southern regions, with the aim of moving to a more "federal" state with greater power for regional and local government. Many other issues, such as the electoral system are up for review as part of the new thinking.
The PDS sees state reform as being linked to the search for a new economic policy that provides growth and development with jobs. Discussions have begun with the trade unions about a reduction in working hours and greater labour flexibility. Integration into Europe on the basis of the Maastricht Treaty poses enormous challenges for the PDS as it seriously limits options outside a neo-liberal framework.
Essentially, the PDS believes there has to be a strong united new party of the Left. Both in its pursuit of this new pact and new party the PDS seems to be increasingly shedding its marxist legacy.
At the end of the Congress, after a moving rendition of the Internationale by some 10 000 people in a red-carpeted hall against a hammer and sickle background, a foreign delegate remarked: "Well, that's the last time we sing this at a PDS Congress " He is probably right!
It's a matter of Red Stars and Thumbs Down
to COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA for their stirring defense of working class interests in their collective address to the recent NEDLAC summit. In delivering the strong message, COSATU President comrade John Gomomo warned government and business not to use NEDLAC as a "toy telephone" and stated in no uncertain terms that the trade unions refused "to be co-opted towards the implementation of GEAR" while re- iterating the unions commitment to collective policy formulation. Red Star can only say VIVA!
to our comrade Minister Valli Moosa and MP Pravin Gordhan for facilitating a lively and constructive discussion document on local government. As part of the process towards implementing a new system of local government, the document has succeeded in its intention to provoke debate and discussion. Other ministries could learn a thing or two from its focus on widespread participation in formulating policy. welcomes this boost for the principle of real consultation.
THREE THUMBS DOWN to Magnus Malan for
making a nasty threat when he told the TRC:
TWO THUMBS DOWN to most of the print media in our country for Afro-pessimism, if not downright racism, for headlines like: "Bloodbath in Zaire feared", "orgy of killing predicted in Kinshasa". While these were headlines, the fascist Turkish army was busy invading northern Iraq in pursuit of their ongoing genocide against the Kurdish people. The Turks were using helicopter gunships and sophisticated artillery against civilian villages. None of this real orgy of violence received any headline treatment, of course!
TOWARDS A WOMEN'S MOVEMENT
Thenjiwe Mtintso, SACP Central Committee member and head of the National Gender Commission, argues for a Women's Movement (WM) structured through women united in struggle and solidarity. Such a movement must be part of the overall struggles for a non-patriarchal, non-racial and non-capitalist society.
"The SACP must help to build a broad progressive women's movement in South Africa to assume a leading role, in the present phase of the NDR, in underlining the profound interconnections between class, national and women's oppression. The struggle against patriarchy requires both an independent focus and integration into the immediate tasks of the day - the advance, deepening and defense of the democratic breakthrough." This is a statement contained in the SACP's Strategic Perspectives adopted at the 1995 Congress.
Prior to that, the SACP had proposed a "package" to include numerous gender structures at all levels of government as well as independent gender and women's structures. Its emphasis was on "a strong WM" as a prerequisite for the effectiveness of those structures. This "package of women structures'' has since been translated by government and parliament into a "national machinery" consisting of numerous bodies both at national and provincial levels. This then begs the question - what about the "strong WM"?
There has not been, either within or outside the Alliance an earnest debate on the different understandings of what this is, whether it can be "formed" and if so, by whom? While the SACP and COSATU gender desks have engaged in serious debate and discussion, the ANC NEC has never discussed the matter. At its Conference in April 1997, the ANCWL referred to the need for WM in passing without debating their understanding of the real meaning. The May 1997 Women's National Coalition, also referred to the need for a WM without unraveling its meaning.
In attempting to forge a working class perspective of a WM we need to understand that women are not a homogenous entity with constant and consistent, all-time common interests, needs and struggles. There are fundamental divisions amongst SA women (e.g., class & race) which determine and impact on their interests, experiences and objectives. At that level there can not be any universal "women's struggles" of all time.
But because of the dominant power relations in favour of men in our society viz patriarchy, all women experience varying degrees of oppression and domination, and may have common interests. These are the moments of "sisterhood", common cause, solidarity and struggle.
The SACP does not propagate notions of class before gender or gender before class. It realises the complex patterns of power, social relations and the existence of one construct in the other. It is crucial for our movement to understand these complexities so as to work-out strategic moments of common cause with other sisters and moments of difference and even opposition to each other.
From this perspective, we cannot view the WM in structural terms of a national body uniting all women at all times, or merely as struggles around "women's issues" as an end. Rather, we must see a WM as women united in struggles around those issues, as part of the overall struggles for the transformation of society. Women must be organised into groups and formations around their specific needs, interests and expectations. Such organisations must be strengthened wherever they are by all means available. Women in every corner of the country must be able to effectively struggle for those things that affect them directly. They must be empowered to speak out for themselves.
A WM means the coming together of women in joint actions, united demands, coordinated campaigns and supportive cooperation around areas of common interest. Each must have and be given space when disagreeing with others without cutting links for future cooperation. This recognises that there are things around which women can agree and struggle (e.g. rape) and areas around which they cannot agree (e.g. the lock out clause), because of class interest. A strong WM would, amongst other things, strengthen the voice of women, advance gender struggles, empower the disempowered groups and facilitate the distribution of resources for the overall strategic objective of eradicating oppressive gender relations.
A WM cannot be an event that occurs on a particular day when it is being launched. It is a process entailing building networks and relationships across all sectors. It means coordinated efforts and struggles around specific issues. Above all it means giving women a Voice whenever they are, enabling them to articulate their needs. Some women's groups, because of their resources, have to assist others and act as "enablers" rather than advocates for those women who cannot speak for themselves. For such a WM to be strong we need the efforts of the broad democratic movement particularly gender and women's structures therein to be the driving force.
The working class has to play a key role as it is in its interests to remove patriarchy and all other forms of domination as part of the class struggle. COSATU and the SACP, as champions of the struggles of the working class, have to lead in the strengthening of the women's movement. For the SACP, socialism is not possible without the eradication of patriarchy. The WM is but one of the tools to be used in the struggle for socialism.