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Address by Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary to the COSATU March on job losses in Durban

On behalf of the Central Committee and the entire membership of the SACP we have come here to be with you today to say we fully support this action by workers. As the prime political party of the working class in our country, we cannot stand on the sidelines and watch this job loss bloodbath taking place as if nothing is happening.

To those who are saying workers must not take up the struggle to defend their jobs, we say to them go to KwaMashu, go to Nkandla, go to Dambuza and all other places where working class communities and the poor are to see the devastation and pain caused by job losses and unemployment. To those who say these marches are meaningless to you just as the lives of ordinary black working class people mean nothing to you. As the SACP we will stand side by side with South Africa’s working class, the majority of whom is African, to fight against the scourge of unemployment, and turn this struggle into a struggle against capitalism itself.

As the SACP we are acutely aware that the ANC-led government inherited an apartheid siege economy. Yes our economy has to be restructured, but we reject the assumption that it is the working class, which must bear the restructuring of the economy. We say it is the bosses and the rich who must make more sacrifices to restructure an economy, which benefited and continues to benefit them most. It is for the reason that we support COSATU’s stance that the Labour Relations Act must be amended in order for the bosses to negotiate rather than unilaterally decide on retrenchments.

What are some of the causes of this job loss bloodbath? The most and perhaps cynical reason for this is that bosses in this country are refusing to invest in our economy. Instead some of them have exploited South Africa’s working class and are then taking these profits and going outside to invest and list in the London and New York Stock Exchanges. The fact that the relaxation of exchange controls has led to, in 1997 alone, local capitalists to invest an estimated R12 billion in other countries as compared to R5 billion investments locally. Even the R5bn invested here has gone to privatisation and mergers.

Related to the above the rate of private investment in our economy is far lower than in countries of similar size to South Africa. This essentially means that there is an investment strike by private capital in this country. As the SACP we therefore reject complaints about this action and a possible general strike by capital, which is tantamount to holding the country at ransom at the expense of lives of millions of our people. Attack the bosses investment strike not the workers’ action.

As the SACP we also cal for urgent convening of sectoral summits to look into their state, and seek joint solutions to halt job losses and turn those sectors into job-creating sectors of our economy. This should include, where necessary a reviewal of our tariffs in instances where their faster relaxation is indicating that it is leading to job losses.

On this issue of tariffs we wish to strongly condemn the hypocrisy of the developed countries in this regard. Whilst developing countries are expected to liberalise their economies and remove tariffs, the indications are that the EU and the US have in the meantime set up more tariffs in those sectors of their economy where they feel vulnerable. For instance the US is creating problems for South African steel in the US market, on the grounds that we are dumping it, when in fact the real issue is to prevent better and high quality steel from competition with the American steel industry. This goes to prove that the current international economic order is aimed at serving the profit interests of the transnational corporations in the developed countries.

It is for this reason that the last Central Committee of the SACP earlier this month, called for a fresh look at how domestic public and private capital is mobilised and channeled towards growing our economy and a foundation for sustainable job creation. As part of this we are saying parastatals must remain in the hands of the state so that its resources are channeled as part of our developmental path and priorities. Privatisation of our assets as a goal in itself will only aggravate the already very grave situation.

As the SACP we are part of the struggles against job losses as well as pat of genuine efforts to create jobs in our country. A loss of a job means poverty, as a job is the only means of livelihood for millions of our people. It is for this reason that we reject the insinuation that workers’ struggles against job losses is selfishness and shortsightedness of the labour movement. Workers are being asked to do the impossible. To watch their jobs being destroyed so that they will then get credit for not being selfish. Who in his or her right mind will allow himself/herself to be thrown into poverty so that they are given credit as patriotic?

We are also concerned that much as these job losses affect all of us, but it is women who are affected most. They are the ones who occupy the most vulnerable positions, which are low paying and tend to be casualised and outsourced. It is also women who have to tender after the sick, the unemployed and starving children. Therefore for us the struggle against job losses and for job creation is a struggle for gender equality and women’s emancipation.

Of serious concern to us as the SACP is the fact it is black workers who are bearing the brunt of joblessness and unemployment. This simply means that we cannot really talk of eradicating racism in our country unless we defend the black working class and the poor, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the people of our land. Similarly this means that the national questions can never be resolved unless it is simultaneously tackled together with class inequalities and gender inequalities. The fundamental basis of racism in our country is the economic inequalities.

As part of this overall struggle and offensive by the working class, we need also to use this opportunity to build the SACP as a vanguard of the working class. We call upon workers to intensify the building of workplace structures of the SACP as well as ensure that the Party has strong residential branches. This is necessitated by the fact that we need to progressively transform these struggles against job losses into a struggle against capitalism and a struggle for socialism. It is only a socialist South Africa that will ultimately halt job losses and lay a firmer foundation for sustainable tackling of poverty.

We are also calling upon workers to strengthen their unions. Let us ensure that service to workers is provided on an ongoing basis and that workplace union structures are strengthened. We should not allow the labour movement to be weakened. Organised workers are the leading detachment of the working class as a whole. Let us also build worker unity more than ever before, and extend it across workers in all union federations.

Let us mobilise working class power for the deepening of the national democratic revolution and a working class led revolution.

Blade Nzimande
General Secretary
South African Communist Party 

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