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Red Alert: Let us make the second decade of freedom - the decade of the workers and the poor

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary
In honour of the memory of Cde Ray Alexander

As the SACP, together with our allies, we wish to celebrate this 119th May Day in honour and as a tribute to the sacrifices and contribution that great communist, combatant of the liberation movement and worker leader, Mam Ray Alexander made to the liberation and reconstruction of our country. Cde Ray Alexander passed away earlier this year, and we say in her memory we recommit ourselves to the struggle to transform our country and our unswerving commitment to the struggle for socialism - the only rational, just, humane alternative to the barbaric capitalist system.

As the SACP we also wish to honour the memory of Nelson Chisale who was assaulted and thrown alive into the lion's den by a white racist farmer. The fate of Nelson Chisale reflects the many brutalities that farmworkers in our countryside continue to suffer at the hands racist farmowners. We are deeply disturbed that South African media in general seems not to be horrified by the story, given the tone and manner of its coverage. In memory of Nelson Chisale let us commit ourselves to organise all vulnerable workers - domestic, farm and casual workers into the trade union movement.

Let us make the second decade of freedom - the decade of the workers and the poor!

The SACP held its Special National Congress three weeks ago. The Communist Party used this Congress to analyse the first ten years of freedom in South Africa, and to chart a way forward for the next ten years.

What has happened in the first ten years since the democratic breakthrough of 1994?

In 1994, after many decades and centuries of struggle, we finally broke the back of white minority rule in our country. Together, as the ANC and its allies, we proclaimed, in the words of the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it - black and white, women and men, rich and poor, worker and boss, young and old, commoner and traditional leader, abled and disabled - this is our country, this is our land, these are our resources, this is our economy.

We are pleased to report that, together, government and people, we have achieved many things since 1994 - democratic institutions, a progressive constitution, rights for all, workers' rights - including the LRA, Basic Conditions of Employment, Minimum Wage Determinations for the most vulnerable sectors of the working class.

Together, government and people, we have also been able to use our political power to shift resources to workers and the poor - 2 million low cost houses, free basic water and electricity for many areas, social grants, and much more. But despite all our efforts, despite the many good things we have achieved, despite what our Freedom Charter says - too much of South Africa still belongs in practice to the rich, to the bosses in the board-rooms, to the big banks, to white farmers and agribusiness, to a white minority that has few votes but which still commands huge resources. There are still two worlds in one South Africa.

There is the world of those who can afford private health care, private schools for their children, private security guards for their suburbs. This is the world of private cars and of free-ways that sweep past our townships and informal settlements, while the majority rely on poor and dangerous public transport, and our children risk getting knocked down while they walk on foot to distant schools. While a few blacks have joined this world of wealth, the great majority of our people continue to live in poverty.

While we have used our state power to bring about changes - the bosses have not just stood by and watched.

We have introduced worker rights. The bosses have casualised and out-sourced.

We have introduced the LRA and Basic Conditions of Employment. The bosses have retrenched more than one million workers since 1994.

We have introduced security of tenure for farm-workers and their families. Agribusiness has simply ignored these rights, and expelled tens of thousands of farm-workers and their families.

Workers are given inflation-related wage increases on top of their meagre wages whilst the bosses give themselves greed-related payments of millions of rands for top executives.

There are more worker rights in the new South Africa� But there are fewer workers to whom they apply.

The statistics for the first ten years of freedom in South Africa show us one shocking reality. While workers became more productive, profits going to the bosses have increased as a proportion of our country's wealth, while the proportion going in wages to workers has decreased dramatically - from around 52% of our GDP in 1993, to around 44% in 2002�and yet the Freedom Charter says "The Wealth Shall be Shared".

Despite our election victory, despite all that we have tried to do in the first decade of freedom�in terms of wealth, the first ten years of freedom have been the decade of the bosses. This is why the SACP says: The second decade of freedom must become the decade of the workers and the poor!

But how?

We must put South Africa on to a new growth path - a people-friendly and people-driven growth path

We must use our political power in government, and we must use our people's power and worker power to change the way this economy works. The present growth path remains basically the same from the apartheid years. It is a growth path that is excessively oriented toward exports. It is an economy that is too much dependent on imports. It is an economy that is capital intensive and labour-shedding - the bosses prefer less workers and more machines (because machines can't toyi-toyi, because machines don't have the vote). It is an economy in which not enough resources are going to training and re-skilling. It is an economy that is heavily concentrated around a few major banks and mining houses - stifling the entrepreneurship of small businesses and operations that cater for local needs and local markets.

We need to change this growth path.

In the first place, we need to use the economic resources that are in the hands of our democratic government - our public service and our big state-owned enterprises (like Transnet and Eskom). As the SACP we are pleased to note that the headlong rush to privatisation of recent years has been halted. We are pleased to note that the leadership of the alliance, and our comrades in government all agree that we must have a strong, interventionist state. We must not sell-off Transnet and Eskom, but rather we must use these strategic assets to drive infrastructure development.

But when we are doing this, what is our objective? In the SACP we say that the main objective of public investment must be to "lower the cost of LIVING in South Africa". The main objective must be to create a labour preserving and job creating economy. The main objective must be to change the present growth path, where the rich get richer and the poor poorer.

We must avoid the illusion that our job is simply to help capitalists get richer, in the hope that if there is capitalist growth we will all benefit. One hundred and twenty years of South African capitalism tells us different. Eleven years of freedom in South Africa, in which we have stabilised capitalism, in which we have created an investor friendly climate, in which we have restored capitalism to profitability� THE STARK EVIDENCE IS THAT CAPITALISM IS FAILING OUR DEMOCRACY.

The second decade of freedom in South Africa must be the decade of the workers and the poor!

To change the present capitalist growth path will not be an easy task. It will require unity of our Alliance, the determined use of state power, and the mobilisation of our trade union and other mass formations.

Halt the job-loss bloodbath

Meanwhile the crisis facing tens of thousands of workers is immediate. As we speak thousands of workers in the mining sector, in the clothing sector, and in many other manufacturing sectors, are being retrenched.

At the Alliance Summit last weekend we have all agreed on immediate steps that must be taken. Comrades from COSATU will speak more fully about these steps.

As the SACP we want to say to the workers of our country and COSATU, that we shall continue to throw our full weight behind COSATU's jobs and poverty campaign, to fight the job loss bloodbath and for job creation.

We also call on government to devote much more resources to developing clear industrial policy strategies, and not just focus on trade issues.

Know Your Neighbourhood campaign

The struggle for a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it is not just a struggle in our factories, mines, shops and farms. It is also a struggle that must be waged where workers and their families live - in our townships, informal settlements, hostels, in our rural villages.

With about 40% of all workers unemployed. With tens of thousands more casualised and working part-time, the struggle to change our own communities has become more important than ever before.

In this 50th Anniversary year of the Freedom Charter, as the ANC-alliance, we are calling on all of our members and supporters to become active in our Know Your Neighbourhood Campaign. Our branches and our shop-stewards locals must be re-dynamised. They must take on the responsibility for going door-to-door, to learn from the concerns, frustrations and aspirations of our people. We must help people access their social grants. We must ensure that our elected representatives are doing their work. We must ensure that government departments deliver, in a spirit of batho pele. We must participate actively in ward committees, school governing bodies and community policing forums. The Freedom Charter says the PEOPLE shall govern�we must give meaning to that demand.

As the SACP we will, in particular, be taking forward our financial sector campaign, and our land and agrarian reform campaign.

We are saying: There must be an amnesty for all of those who have been black-listed by the Credit Bureaux. Legislation that regulates the Credit Bureaux and the mashonisas must be passed as soon as possible. We need to create an environment in which people's cooperative savings initiatives (our stokvels and burial societies) are assisted and empowered.

We are saying we want a new model to finance low-cost housing if the R42 billion rands set aside by banks as a direct result of our struggle is to have any meaningful impact on housing our people. We demand a shorter payment period for bonds, and not the 20-year mortgage bonds based on compound interest. We call upon the workers to support us in taking up this struggle.

We are saying our land reform programme must be speeded up if we are to reach our target of 30% of commercial agricultural land coming under reform by 2014. We are saying that the present "willing seller, willing buyer" policy is not working. The SACP says:
  • land for the landless, for the retrenched and unemployed
  • land for household and community subsistence
  • land for food security
  • land for coops

The SACP says: farm-workers and their families must enjoy the same rights as all South Africans.

Local government elections - forward to the consolidation of an ANC-led election victory

We must use all these campaigns to build a momentum towards an ANC victory in the forthcoming local government elections.

Let an election victory take us forward:

In the struggle to build sustainable livelihoods and sustainable households for all!
In the struggle to halt the jobs loss blood-bath!
In the struggle to put our country on to a new growth and development path!

Deepening international working class solidarity

The SACP calls upon the workers of our country to continue deepening solidarity with the workers of the world. Of particular importance is the need to deepen solidarity with workers in the Southern African region and the continent as a whole. The struggle for peace, development and reconstruction of the African continent principally rests in building the working class as the main motive force in this struggle, acting together with the peasantry and the poor. To this end all working class formations in our country need to harmonise their international work, in order to realise this objective.