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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 13, No. 50, 27 November 2014

In this Issue:

   

Red Alert

What lies behind the current turmoil within COSATU?

By Cde Jeremy Cronin

Last Friday cde Zwelinzima Vavi was invited as the key-note speaker to the South African Labour Bulletin's 40th anniversary event. "Is labour at a turning point?" was the question he was asked to address. Focusing on the divisions within COSATU, cde Vavi answered in the affirmative.

There is much to welcome in this very important speech by the general secretary of the largest trade union federation in Africa. Cde Vavi quite correctly dismissed the "many shallow commentators" who would have it that the root cause of current divisions in COSATU lies, for instance, "in personal differences". Also to be welcomed is the strongly expressed support for the reclaiming of worker-democracy and work-place organisation. Likewise cde Vavi's insistence that "We cannot have a situation where unions say one thing in the public arena, say for example on the need to tackle corruption, and then refuse to be accountable in their own unions."

Above all, the speech is to be welcomed for its dire warning to those who imagine that casually splitting the Federation and forming another is the answer. This is how cde Vavi puts it:

"The easy option might appear to be to simply walk away from it all by announcing a split and the formation of a new Federation, forged around a more radical economic agenda combined with a determination to start afresh to entrench accountability and workers' control. I know [that] to many of you in this room [he is addressing an SALB audience remember] this sounds like a good option. But this is not as easy or desirable as it might sound. In a context in which temperatures are running high, and fierce loyalties are felt in one direction or another, any split will produce multiple conflicts at every level."

Cde Vavi goes on to warn that a split will inevitably spill over into factionalising of some 230 shop stewards councils countrywide, the factionalising of 18 affiliates, a civil war of purging and counter-purging, and even the real danger of violent confrontations (which have already happened, by the way).

In all of this cde Vavi is absolutely correct. He is to be commended for stepping up to the plate and warning all those, and we trust he means ALL those, from whatever direction, who are reckless about safe-guarding COSATU unity. He is also correct to say that "unity at any price", a mechanical unity of the kind that arguably emerged from the last COSATU national congress, is not a lasting solution either. It must be a principled unity based on an active programme of action.

But to achieve a principled unity, based on working class solidarity and the re-building of a powerful trade union movement, we need to diagnose the problems within the trade union movement, and within the wider working class, accurately. It is here that cde Vavi's speech falters.

What follows is not a sectarian taking of sides, but an attempt to contribute to the discussion that cde Vavi has initiated. As the SACP we are not under the illusion that COSATU is divided into two neat camps - the one good and the other bad. Indeed, apart from the unending capitalist offensive against COSATU and unions in general, resulting in a dramatic drop in the percentage of private sector workers who are unionised, many of the core internal challenges facing unions - like growing leadership distance from the work-place, bureaucratism, the sins of incumbency, and business unionism - are to be found in all affiliates, no doubt in different forms and in differing degrees.

"Two distinct views"

Having dismissed "shallow commentators" who explain COSATU's current divisions simply in terms of personal differences among the leadership, cde Vavi characterises the core issue at stake in COSATU's divisions in the following terms:

"The underlying differences within the Federation revolve primarily around two distinct views on the ANC's economic agenda and what this has meant to workers' demands enshrined in the Freedom Charter. The first view, as expressed through adopted resolutions in every National Congress and Central Committee since 1997, is that our government has pursued a neo-liberal economic agenda at the expense of the working class, and that this should continue to be vigorously challenged by COSATU. The opposing view is that this criticism is too harsh and the Federation should take a ‘nuanced' view. In the past two and a half years the latter view has found expression in the public arena."

This statement lies at the very heart of cde Vavi's analysis of the underlying cause of the divisions within COSATU. Unfortunately this analysis is problematic in many respects. Let us unpack some of the problems systematically:

First let's note that this characterisation of "the root cause" of the divisions within COSATU is itself a NUANCED version of NUMSA's Special NEC version of the root cause:

"We have boldly maintained that at the heart of the crisis in COSATU are two opposing forces: the forces of capitalism and the forces socialism. The capitalist forces within the Federation seek to make workers to understand and tolerate the continuation of white monopoly capitalist domination, by accepting elements of the neoliberal NDP. The socialist forces seek to mobilise the working class to break the power of white monopoly capitalism through the implementation of the Freedom Charter as historically understood by the working class." ("Ideological Reflections and Responses to some recent attacks", NUMSA Special NEC, 15 September 2013)

Of course, it is somewhat helpful that cde Vavi has at least NUANCED this NUMSA declaration of civil war within the Federation. But cde Vavi's nuancing is still basically a milder version of the same perspective. It doesn't serve, therefore, as we will show, as the basis for providing a principled and unifying way forward. This brings us to the second related problem in cde Vavi's characterisation of the root cause of divisions within COSATU.

Second, note how his characterisation of the "root cause" of the divisions is not a balanced attempt to at least understand the opposing perspectives and begin to provide unifying leadership on a way out of the dire cul-de-sac into which, on cde Vavi's own admission, the Federation might be heading. The "first view" is presented as being in line with all resolutions of the Federation, going back to 1997. "The second view" is presented as a Johnny-come-lately deviation that has suddenly popped up publicly in the past two-and-a-half years - i.e. exactly when the current turmoil set in; i.e. implicitly, if not explicitly, it is this "second view" that cde Vavi is blaming for being at the heart of the divisions. I don't think that is a useful approach to addressing unity in the federation.

Third, but what exactly is the "first view"? This is how cde Vavi puts it: "since 1997… our government has pursued a neo-liberal economic agenda at the expense of the working class…"  But can government's "economic agenda" (to use cde Vavi's term provisionally) over the past 17 years be simplistically reduced to neo-liberalism, finish-and-klaar, without any nuance?

Incontestably, there have been powerful neo-liberal (and other narrow capitalist) ideological influences at work from within and without the state and ANC. It would be strange if that were not the case, given the global context of our democratic breakthrough in 1994, given the power of incumbent monopoly capital within our country, and given the emergent capitalist class formation underway within the ANC (and within COSATU itself, particularly via union investment arms). Over the past 6 years the dominance of a neo-liberal perspective within government has declined somewhat, but powerful neo-liberal tendencies have certainly not disappeared. For instance, a current move from factions within the state bureaucracy (rejected, at least formally, by the ANC and government) is to privatise electricity transmission.

The struggle, as cde Vavi says in concluding his speech, certainly continues. But who wages the struggle? Is it the trade union movement alone? We will return to this last question in a moment.

Fourth, precisely because government (or ANC) economic policy cannot be reduced simplistically to "neo-liberalism" finish-and-klaar, when he briefly traces the history of COSATU's resistance to neo-liberalism in government over the past 17 years, cde Vavi, in effect, NUANCES "view one" (i.e. he unintentionally falls into a version of "view two"!). For instance, he tells us that:

"In 1995 [actually it was 1996] the ANC government unilaterally announced GEAR. Practically, this meant the announcement of a neoliberal programme of privatisation of major state enterprises…" etc.

But in the very next paragraph he tells us that "the privatisation of most major state owned enterprises" was stopped. In other words, a key pillar of the 1996 GEAR neo-liberal policy package was not (or could not be) pursued. This is an important NUANCE. There are many more NUANCES that follow in cde Vavi's speech. We are told that the 2010 COSATU CEC "observed that there was paralysis in government caused by policy zigzags", and that concerns were raised that "progressive elements of the National Growth Path document were being ignored", or that "little was being done to resource and vigorously implement the industrial policy action plan"…etc. All of these claims (however, accurate they may or may not be) amount, at the very least, to a concession that there were (and are) battles going on inside of government around policy direction. In other words, it is way too simplistic to argue that the "ANC government has pursued neo-liberal policies" finish-and-klaar. If you admit there are zig-zags, then you are nuancing the argument. Perhaps cde Vavi's nuancing at this point is saying little more than any alternatives to neo-liberalism that might exist in government or the ANC, are simply being swept aside. But if so, even this NUANCING is done by sleight of hand, which brings us to:

Fifth, the resistance to GEAR, or to privatisation, is presented by cde Vavi as a battle waged by COSATU out on its own, flying solo. "COSATU succeeded in stopping privatisation of most major state owned enterprises", he says. Certainly COSATU played a critical, arguably the leading role in mobilising against privatisation - but the SACP was also active together with COSATU. Many comrades in government, in the ANC NEC committees, and ANC comrades in parliament also played an active part in resisting privatisation of major state owned enterprises. This struggle continues, and the anti-privatisation forces across our movement and within government are now much stronger. But cde Vavi airbrushes this part of our recent shared history out of existence.

Cde Vavi, tells us that the neo-liberal project "was described by COSATU as the ‘1996 Class Project''' - actually, it was the SACP that coined the term referring, precisely, to the date of the announcement of GEAR in 1996 (and not 1995). As the SACP we are not now quibbling over copyright here, but rather we are trying to underline a pattern in cde Vavi's argument. COSATU, we are told, was labelled by some ANC leaders as "populist, economistic, ultra-left". That's true. But then so were many of us in the SACP.

The picture portrayed in cde Vavi's argument in summarising the past 15 years or so is a picture of THEM vs. COSATU alone, of the NEO-LIBERALS vs. the FEDERATION…and now, by implication, some of "us" (view two, the COSATU NUANCERS) have gone over to the other side. The drift of cde Vavi's argument here runs the danger of becoming syndicalist (in the strict meaning of that term) - i.e. the only authentic opposition to capitalism is in an ideologically pure trade union movement.

Rebuilding the unity of COSATU on a principled programme of action is the key priority

Cde Vavi is absolutely right - the re-building of a united COSATU on the bed-rock of worker-democracy and a progressive programme of action is the critical priority. In advancing this strategic task, debates about whether to remain within the Tripartite Alliance, of whether to support the ANC in elections, of whether government has sold-out and (if it has) to what degree - are all important but SECONDARY matters. There are, and have always been, contending views on these matters within COSATU and its affiliates.

If, hypothetically, a united COSATU decides not to support the ANC in elections, hundreds of thousands of COSATU members will still be members of and vote for the ANC. If, hypothetically, a united COSATU decides not to remain in the Alliance, auto-workers will still continue to benefit from the billions of rands the ANC-led government has leveraged in order to ensure the survival and development of our auto sector (as opposed to Australia where a genuinely neo-liberal administration has presided over the complete loss of the entire auto sector). Workers in a united COSATU, hypothetically outside of the Alliance, will still, surely, support and seek to advance the ANC government's industrial action plan, or the massive extension of one of the world's largest per capita social redistributive programmes. Workers belonging to a united COSATU that hypothetically is no longer within the Alliance will still surely join SACP campaigns in large numbers on the ground, along with tens of thousands of the non-unionised, the casualised and the unwaged proletariat, to campaign against the predation of mashonisas, the credit bureaux and corrupt politicians and tenderpreneurs.

However, a divided COSATU in which (as cde Vavi has so vividly portrayed) shop-steward councils and affiliate structures are consumed in a worker-on-worker civil war will not be able to lend the full weight of the Federation to support the industrial policy action plans. An internecine union struggle, in which rival factions and rival unions seek to outflank each other with populist rhetoric and narrow short-term and entirely economistic gains for their immediate (or targeted) members will de-focus the union movement from the imperative of building solidarity with the non-unionised and with working class communities.

These are not thumb-suck predictions, already with COSATU consumed by its internal turmoil, the impact of the Federation on strengthening progressive policies and programmes, or on engaging in parliamentary processes has noticeably diminished. Already, there has been intra-COSATU worker-on-worker violence. This is why we insist - rebuilding worker solidarity and the unity of COSATU is the principle challenge, all other matters might be important, but they are secondary. So how do we take forward the re-building of COSATU unity?

The current turmoil within COSATU needs to be firmly located: first within a series of objective factors, most notably monopoly capital's relentless offensive against the working class; and secondly, in a range of subjective responses from within and beyond COSATU ranks.

Objective factors impacting on the organised working class

In any analysis of the current turmoil within COSATU it is absolutely critical to ground it in the very first place in an understanding of monopoly capital's relentless offensive against the working class. This has seen the rolling back and hollowing out of many important formal and institutional trade union gains after 1994. Extensive labour brokering, casualisation, mass retrenchments in a context of persisting crisis levels of unemployment - all have weakened the power of unionised workers in the class balance of forces.

Massive capital flight out of our country, some of it illegal, some of it through dual listings, mergers and acquisitions, transfer pricing, and tax avoidance, coupled with a persisting private sector investment strike, have led to significant de-industrialisation. Weaknesses in government policy and programmes, or the failure to vigorously implement or sufficiently fund aggressive counter-measures have certainly contributed to these problems - but that is different from making government centrally to blame, or from simply declaring the ANC-led government "neo-liberal".

Among the consequences of this capitalist-driven, anti-working class offensive has been the dramatic decline in the percentage of unionised workers in the private sector. Between 1997 and 2013, while the number of unionised private sector workers remained static (at just over 1.8m), the percentage of workers in the private sector who were unionised dropped dramatically from 35.6% to 24.4%. By contrast, in the same period, public sector unionised workers grew both in absolute numbers (from 835,795 to 1,393,189) and in percentage terms (from 55.2% to nearly 70%). (I note in passing that if the ANC-led government's economic-agenda was half as neo-liberal as alleged by some, then we wouldn't be seeing such a high and increasing level of public sector unionisation.)

Subjective responses from within the union movement to this capitalist offensive

There isn't the space here to unpack the diversity of ideological tendencies and responses to the pain being inflicted upon the trade union movement and upon the working class in general -including a variety of syndicalist, vanguardist, personality cults, and other tendencies.

Many of these competing tendencies are further catalysed by different objective realities related to the stratification and segmentation of the working class. Cde Vavi is right to say, for instance, that while "life has not been cushy for public sector workers", their different objective reality is likely to lead to a "slightly different perspective on the world of work". This is surely correct, as is the point cde Vavi goes on to make that where such differences emerge out of different objective realities, the role of a progressive Federation is to build worker unity and solidarity. (It's unfortunate therefore that the general secretary of COSATU takes an unwarranted swipe at public sector unions, suggesting with great hyperbole that their different work-place reality "has made it not difficult for some of their leadership to be persuaded that the state is an eternal ally, and that any class based opposition to the state neoliberal policies is counter-revolutionary." But let's pass over this.)

With massive pressure on unionisation in the private sector, and particularly on the manufacturing sector it would not be surprising if the danger were to arise of intra-COSATU competition to recruit and even poach members from allied affiliates. We are told that this has always been happening - and FAWU leadership has even admitted doing this. However, the new phenomenon that has arisen in the recent past within COSATU is an ideological attempt to justify the extension of scope that offends the core, founding principle of COSATU, "one industry, one union".

NUMSA has, of course, led this ideological attempt, and it consists in two steps. The first is to argue that the "one industry, one union" principle is ineffective, and that NUMSA should organise across sectors along "value chains". There may be substance in this proposition, an idea which the NUMSA leadership has borrowed from the Canadian Auto Workers union1, operating, of course, in a very different reality. Certainly in the South African case in particular we would have to ask strategic and tactical questions about the nature of value chains - these are increasingly dominated upstream and downstream by monopoly capital, and they are increasingly transnationalised. Would organising along these lines by NUMSA, for instance, not run the danger of undermining sectoral unions and particularly their workers in smaller industries that are marginalised within monopoly controlled value chains? Sectoral unions would be deprived of the leverage of better skilled and more permanent workers in the monopoly dominated parts of their particular sector. This in turn could result not just in intra-COSATU affiliate divisions, but the further segmentation of the working class.

None of this might be correct, and there are, no doubt, also persuasive arguments for organising across value chains with a single or several general unions. But this is not the central point. The key issue is that NUMSA has only brought this discussion into the Federation AFTER THE FACT. It has simply steamed ahead.

But the second step that NUMSA has taken in this regard has been an attempt to give "political cover" to this poaching agenda - namely to present its agenda as a class war inside of COSATU itself. And this is the real threat to COSATU unity. It comes from those quarters that elevate important but, from a union point of view, secondary matters (like should the Federation remain within the Alliance) in order to provide ideological cover to justify the hostile poaching, the cannibalising of members of fellow affiliates. That is where the critical challenge to safe-guarding the unity (whatever the political diversity) of a militant and independent COSATU lies.

I have absolutely no doubt that cde Vavi desperately and correctly wants to preserve the unity and integrity of COSATU. We should all support him in this endeavour. He undoubtedly has a key role in this respect. But the manner in which he has attempted to diagnose the root of the problems in COSATU in his SA Labour Bulletin anniversary speech is not helpful.

Cde Jeremy Cronin is SACP First Deputy General Secretary

The Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW), full name the National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada by the way has since further transformed along the general union and merged last year with the CEP (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) to form "Unifor" (Union for Canada) in a historical and contemporary context which is completely different to South Africa, COSATU and its affiliates in particular the principle of ‘One industry, One union'.

 

A response to the open letter to the late President of COSATU Cde Elijah Barayi

By Cde Justice Piitso to Castro Ngobese

Mhlekazi: NUMSA has expelled itself from COSATU

I felt obliged to respond to your open letter dated 24 November 2014 to our late President of COSATU, Cde Elijah Barayi. I confess that your open letter is much revealing, to say the least.

I take my response to your open letter as one of the most important tasks of our National Democratic Revolution (NDR). In other words responding to your open letter is a solemn act of any revolutionary.

I borrow the words of our late struggle veteran Cde Lawrence Phokanoka when he says the following about the significance of political education:

'A political education school is like a factory of production, it is like a kitchen where the new is born, and is the most precious task of our revolution. Development of an all-round revolutionary cadre is a key to the success of any revolutionary movement'.

What remains conspicuous and a food for thought to me, is whether indeed you are the author of this letter which seeks to praise the dead in order to condemn the living. I strongly believe that the contents of your open letter do not resonate with your being as a potential revolutionary young activist of our movement.

The assumptions made in the open letter for whatever reasons convenient to you suggest a band of fellow travellers, inactive in the ushering of the democratic state and the events of the two decades of our democracy, in essence, passive participants in the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic society.

I thought you differ from the rest in the omnibus. I thought you belong to the few amongst us who understand the most important question that our political task is to make those who are from within happier before we can attract others.

Without doubt you belong to the category of the few but amongst the potential young organic revolutionary leaders of our liberation movement and the progressive trade union movement. For these reasons a response to "your" open letter is well deserved.

In other words notwithstanding the conspicuous nature of your open letter, from the bottom of my heart, I am conscious that I am responding to an open letter written by someone who has some understanding of our congress movement.

My concern is that in the recent past, you have joined the chorus which has been consistently directing its bestial rage and venomous hatred to our revolutionary movement, its leadership and the NDR.

A chorus of counter-revolution which seeks to climb over the "carcass" of our national liberation movement, making noise throughout, making noise like a jackal that barks for the whole night at the moon for no apparent reason.

I am clear in my conscience that you are not a foot soldier of imperialism and neo-colonial forces. You are one of our own, you belong nowhere else but within the ranks of the family of our revolution.

You and I are the first to comprehend the most important dialectical proposition that our NDR is not a high way chase, but the most complex protracted struggle to change society. We are the first to understand that a revolution has its own twists and turns, and ours is no different.

You have again sought to abuse the name of our revolutionary leader, the late President Elijah Barayi, to throw insults and vulgar to the leadership of our national liberation movement. In your open letter, a conversation rather, you have resolved to single-out the Secretary General of the ANC Cde Gwede Mantashe and the General Secretary of the SACP Cde Blade Nzimande.

Contrary to the stated views within your ranks condemning the elevation of personalities above organisation, you have resorted to the notion that you despise. It has never been revolutionary in the past to do the same, neither can it be revolutionary now to elevate personalities.

But the truth is that your overall strategy and tactic is to undermine the entire leadership of our revolutionary Alliance and therefore the objectives of our national democratic revolution, again consistent with the traditions of a fellow traveller.

I want to remind you of the polemics of our revolutionary leader of the world Communist Movement Cde Vladimir Lenin. In 1905 he had to say the following against the leaders of the Second International:

'History shows us that after the death of any revolutionary leader who has won popularity with the masses, his enemies will appropriate his name and use it to hoodwink the oppressed classes.'

Today, 109 years later, you have joined the chorus of the Mensheviks, to appropriate the name of our revolutionary leader and use it to hoodwink the millions of the working class of our country.

In his thesis 'ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACKWARD', as he elucidates the counter-revolutionary phenomenon that led to the split of the party in Russia, again Lenin says the following about opportunism:

'When we speak of fighting opportunism, we must never forget a characteristic feature of present-day opportunism in every sphere, namely, its vagueness, amorphousness, elusiveness.'

I would have assumed that in your conversation of this nature with our late President, whose mortal remains are resting in the world of the departed, you would invite to yourself a sense of moral and revolutionary responsibility, rather than spitting venom and half-truths. Fellow travellers would say to distance themselves, 'we were not there'.

From the deep end of our trenches in struggle, from where we are today, in the land of the living, we should honestly account to the late President of the federation and all other fallen heroes and heroines of our struggle, about the unfolding events of our NDR. When we do so, we should be honest with ourselves and be objective about the state of the revolution. There are no short-cuts.

More importantly in a conversation with a departed revolutionary leader of the calibre of President Elijah Barayi, I will expect you to pride and assert yourself with the profound revolutionary words of wisdom from our leader Cde Amilcar Cabral, when he said:

'Tell no lies, claim no easy victories, and unmask difficulties to the masses…'

During the historic occasion of the founding rally of our federation COSATU in Curries Fountain, in front of delegates from all walks of life, in front of dignitaries invited from within and all over the world, to witness the birth of our giant federation, Cde President Elijah Barayi acclaimed the following founding slogan of our Federation:

'ONE FEDERATION IN ONE COUNTRY, ONE UNION IN ONE COUNTRY'

This clarion call was consistent with the revolutionary traditions and principle of the unity and cohesion of our national liberation movement. It was consistent with our traditions that unity is a precondition for the success of any revolution, and in this case, ours.

His clarion call was to all and sundry to recognise the essence of the unity of workers under an umbrella Federation (COSATU), that will become their shield, and the National Liberation Movement headed by the ANC, as their spear.

President Elijah Barayi understood well that the struggle of the workers of our country in particular and our people in general, required a formidable force of a Federation, and from this premise, a call to Botha to resign, reverberated with a call to attain national independence; for the workers could not enjoy democratic rights of representation and trade union rights under a repressive and authoritarian regime.

Under the collective leadership of President Barayi, the South African working class understood the dialectical relationship between the national and class struggle. They understood well the interconnectedness between a struggle to attain rights to organise at the workplace, to the rights that can fully be exercised in a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

I must remind you today that this revolutionary theoretical formulation never escaped the visionary mind of the collective leadership of President Barayi, in its clarion call for a single trade union federation, and one industry one union under the umbrella of COSATU.

We need to remain true to ourselves that in our task to account to our leadership in the world of the departed, we should be honest about the state of our revolution, in that we are traversing the most difficult times in the cause of our noble struggle for national liberation. Again, the ravages of neo-colonialism and exploitation of more than 300 years cannot be reversed in 2 decades.

We need to give a full account of the balance of forces in our country and the whole world; that the collapse of socialism in the Soviet block and East European countries has ushered in a hostile unipolar world dominated by international monopoly capital.

We need to give a full account that the environment we find ourselves in today has tilted the balance of forces against the world revolutionary movement. We are living under difficult circumstances which are not of our own making, but bestowed upon us by history.

We need to give an account that the forces of reaction from both within and outside our own ranks are determined to reverse the gains of our national democratic revolution; that there is a worldwide orchestrated campaign to erode the gains of our national liberation movement.

We need to give our leaders from the land of the departed a full and comprehensive account that a faction from NUMSA has decided to expel itself from the Federation and our ANC headed revolutionary Alliance. This faction has become the most destructive in the recent history of our liberation struggle. Nothing can be said to be revolutionary with its actions and conduct.

(It) the faction does not understand the theoretical thesis that the participation of the working class in the overall struggle for democracy is not conditional on other strata of our society accepting socialism as the future. This faction has no sense of appreciation of the complexities of our struggle, let alone an understanding of a proper analysis of the balance of forces.

This faction does not understand the most important theoretical formulation that the Communist Party and the trade union movement are both working class formations. But also that their place and role to the immediate and long term struggles are not and cannot be the same.

The faction cannot understand that a trade union movement cannot assume a political role of a vanguard and political leader of the working class and society. That a trade union movement is a mass organisation of the working class.

This faction seeks to substitute the political leadership role of the vanguard party of the working class. It has political interests that are separate from those of the working class and the world Communist Movement as a whole.

This faction does not understand the multi-class character of the ANC as the premier leader of our NDR. It does not even understand that the task of building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society is but the first building block towards our socialist future.

Truth be told, this chorus of a small faction from within NUMSA, is in the forefront to break our ANC headed revolutionary Alliance. They accuse the ANC of being a neo- liberal organisation.

This chorus of a small faction from NUMSA does not understand that the Freedom Charter is not a dogma, but a guiding programme of the struggle of our people. The Freedom CHARTER has never been a platform for a socialist struggle but it is NEITHER a capitalist document, but a platform that embraces the aspirations of the South African people as a whole.

Together with counter-revolutionary forces from both within our country and the world, this faction is determined to create an opposition to the ANC and the SACP by a fetish notion of a "movement for socialism" as well as that of a "united front".

Throughout the history of the progressive trade union movement in our country, a revolutionary role to lead the struggle for socialism is the task of a vanguard party of the working, in our context, the SACP.

A part of this struggle and an account to the departed, entails an acknowledgement that we have not attained the objective of building a single trade union federation in our country, representative of all components of the organised working class.

The 1994 democratic breakthrough has ushered in better conditions for the establishment of a stronger and militant trade unions movement which our forebears sacrificed their lives for. The working class is conducting its own struggle for a living wage under much improved conditions.

These objective realities of our freedom have in turn brought about the subjective realities of the global phenomenon of capital, and what we had not anticipated, the erosion of the manufacturing sector in our economy, and the spread of the (domestic) retail sector to many parts of the continent. For these reasons, unions in many of our sectors have lost membership.

To bring matters home to the issues at stake in COSATU, a tradition of the Federation entails that each affiliated union adopts policy positions, and subsequently persuade the rest of the affiliated unions to endorse its policy positions. This has over a period of years ensured coherence and unity in the Federation.

In this instance the faction in NUMSA has undermined this important fundamental principle of our Federation. To expand and register a new scope that has serious implication entails canvassing the rest of the unions in the Federation to endorse the expansion. To resolve to establish a "united front" by an affiliate also requires canvassing the rest of the Federation.

The crux of the matter at this juncture is the constraining of the Federation to enforce the policy of one industry one union and therefore causing the disintegration of unity and coherence within its ranks.

The General Secretary of the SACP Cde Joe Slovo was instructive in characterising the nature and role of a trade union. In essence, a prime organ of working people, it cannot demand more in membership.

Slovo understood the limitations of trade unions, that in their very nature and existence, they are associations of all working people, and cannot demand of their membership other than adherence to the basic ideals.

For the above reasons, the membership of the trade union federation COSATU has been open to all and sundry irrespective of their political or ideological inclination. This has not precluded the Federation from pronouncing on its political and ideological inclination and the membership has in the context of a majority decision respected these policy pronouncements.

From the founding Congress of the Federation, Cosatu understood that the struggles of the organised section of the working class were linked to the struggle for the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

In this context, the Federation acknowledged that the ANC represented the broad aspirations of all sections of society for the realisation of democratic society, a beach head to pursue the broader struggle of a socialist society. The alliance with the SACP is intricately linked to a struggle for an egalitarian and socialist society.

The ANC is a multi-class organisation that represents all those who stand to benefit from a non-racial and democratic society, and for these reasons, a "broad church". It is in the battle of ideas and the terrain of struggle that the workers, an organised component of the working class, fight their battles within the ANC to claim their space and agenda.

The leadership role of the working class is to assert its hegemony in this phase as a motive force of our revolution. This role cannot be anointed or taken for granted but has got to be fought and earned in theatre of struggle.

The best for you Mhlekazi is to narrate to the leadership in the land of our departed that we are seized with the task of overcoming these challenges. What we must do is not to abandon our trenches, and for narrow and un-scientific reasons, find shelter elsewhere.

It is not in our interest to have a weak COSATU. A weak COSATU is a weak ANC and SACP and therefore a weakened NDR. The best for the future of our country is a strong, militant and united trade union Federation COSATU which is part of the revolutionary Alliance as headed the ANC.

Cde Phatse Justice Piitso is the former Ambassador to the republic of Cuba and the former provincial secretary of the SACP writing this article on his personal capacity

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