Tuesday, April 01, 2014

South Africa: NUMSA breaks with ANC

Striking platinum miners rally for R 12 500 a month wage

Finally m0re than a year after the massacre at Marikana, a major union is in the process of breaking politically from the Tripartite Alliance of the ANC, SACP and COSATU that has ruled over imperialism’s super-exploitation of South Africa since 1994. The National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) will not campaign for the ANC in the next elections and has called for an independent union- based socialist party. It seeks to force the leadership of COSATU to call a special conference to pass a resolution that all the COSATU unions break politically from the ANC. But NUMSA has not rejected the reformist “Freedom Charter” –the ANC charter that called for a peaceful, parliamentary transformation to socialism. Nor do the other political breakaways from the ANC, the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) -led Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) and the Malema-led Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) reject the Freedom Charter. It is necessary for  revolutionary communists to fight for independence of the unions from the ANC and for the formation of a new mass revolutionary party that breaks the ‘necklace’ of national capitalism and fights for international socialism.

Global Crisis and South Africa

The global crisis of falling profits since 2007 has been downloaded onto the semi-colonies by both the US-led and China-led imperialist blocs. In this way imperialism tries to cut the prices of raw materials and labour power so that global profits can be restored. In South Africa the ANC acts as the junior partner of the MNCs imposing deep cuts on workers living standards to restore both imperialists and the ANC share of rising super-profits.  The strategic relationship between the ANC and China does not allow South Africa to escape the fate of imperialist super-exploitation. South Africa may be a BRIC but it is definitely becoming a semi-colony of China. Traditional British and US MNCs are now joined by Chinese MNCs in intensify labour and forcing down wages. This has been felt in every sector of production from the mines to agriculture.

The response of the MNCs, and its junior partner the ANC, has been met with growing resistance in mass demonstrations and strikes. The ANC has declared itself national strike breaker by using the police and union thugs to shoot down miners and other workers in an attempt to intimidate the militant leadership. This has been met with angry resistance such as at Marikana where miners staged a wildcat strike against the corrupt NUM bureaucracy that acts as the paid agents of the mine owners. When two miners were shot by NUM officials, the wildcat spread. Attempts by NUM national leaders to quell the uprising failed and led to the planned police massacre at Marikana. As a result most of the platinum miners have left the NUM and joined AMCU, a breakaway union. More strikes have followed leading up to the current platinum workers’ strike for R 12 500. It is clear that the legitimacy of the COSATU unions is now being questioned by a widening layer of militant workers. Such was the lead up to the NUMSA vote to break with the ANC. Out of the capitalist crisis comes the opportunity for revolution.

Militancy is not enough

Working class militancy as a response to the demand for more super-profits does not automatically throw up revolutions. Militancy results from rising exploitation and austerity, but the causes of these attacks on workers are not immediately obvious. Capitalism exists as an exploitative social relation where Capital exploits Labour in the process of production. However, this appears as an exchange relation where exploitation is based on labour being paid below its value. This appearance presents the solution as labour organising and fighting for reforms to equalise exchange or ‘fair shares’ between Capital and Labour. This leads to ‘economism’ where the labour movement fights for wage increases rather than for the end of the ‘wage system’ i.e. reformism.  

Since economism blames the bosses’ for using their power to raise profits at the expense of wages, the bosses’ policy of attacking labour to raise profits is seen as the enemy, rather then the capitalist system itself. This anti-worker program may be labelled ‘neo-liberalism’, corruption, austerity etc., but for reformists it can be reversed by workers parties winning elections with a program for parliamentary socialism. Thus economism gives rise to opportunism as the bureaucratic leadership of the unions and left political parties attempt to negotiate ‘fair shares’. So despite the militancy of workers, economism prevents them from organising independently of the labour bureaucracy, building their own political organs and forging their own path to the socialist revolution.

The Freedom Charter

The ANC Freedom Charter was a reformist program drafted by the SACP, a Stalinist party, which put forward the two stage theory of a national democratic revolution preparatory to the socialist revolution. It was held that once the black majority came to power it would nationalise the means of production to develop the economy and create the basis for a second, socialist, stage. However, since 1994 reality has shown that the ANC in an alliance with the SACP and COSATU has failed to implement the Freedom Charter.  Land and industry largely remains in the hands of national and multinational capital, and that far from creating the conditions for socialism, the living standards of the masses have deteriorated.

Those who criticised the ANC did so in terms of its corrupt politics, adopting ‘neo-liberalism’, and enriching of a new black bourgeoisie at the expense of the masses. The critics alternative was and is still today to be for a new mass party to replace the ANC and implement the Freedom Charter as originally planned. For example the CWI opposition in the ANC, the Marxist Workers Tendency (MWT) was kicked out of the ANC but continued to behave like an internal opposition.  Today its successor, the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), calls for a new socialist mass party that can be elected to power to legislate for ‘socialism’ by nationalising the land, industry and banks without smashing the state! Similarly, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of the former ANC Youth leader Julius Malema expelled in 2013 for criticising the current leadership, calls for nationalisation of the mines and industry but only a 60% state share leaving 40% owned by the capitalists. Neither of these political currents, which are also discussing an alliance, wishes to break from the democratic national program of the South African revolution. 

What should revolutionary communists do in the upcoming elections? While the WASP Manifesto is left reformist despite its Trotskyist phrases about nationalisation under workers control, it will be a pole of attraction for militant workers who are breaking with the ANC.  For this reason revolutionary communists must give it critical support in the classic Leninist method. We raise our own program but where militant workers have illusions in parliament we offer to accompany them through the experience of voting WASP at the same time warning them that no socialist revolution can be won through parliamentary reforms.
Permanent Revolution

When Trotsky called for a Black Republic in South Africa in the 1930s he did not envisage this as a national democratic stage to prepare for a future socialist stage. Once the black majority was in power it would face a hostile intervention from British imperialism which would necessarily force it to follow the course of the 1917 revolution in Russia—to the seizure of power by the working class, and to defend itself in a revolutionary war against imperialist attacks. That is, the ‘permanent revolution’. The Leninist-Trotskyist position on the right of nations to self-determination was not a matter for isolated nations. The imperialist epoch was one in which oppressor nations oppressed the colonies directly and the semi-colonies via the national bourgeoisies. The struggle for national independence would require a struggle to defeat both the national bourgeoisie and its imperialist masters. Trotsky was assassinated by a Stalinist agent in 1940 and didn’t live to see it, the period of decolonisation that followed WW2 vindicated the Leninist-Trotskyist theory and practice of Permanent Revolution.

By contrast the Stalinist conception of ‘socialism in one country’ was translated into national roads to socialism where the national bourgeoisie would take power to prepare the conditions for socialism. This was an opportunist adaptation of the Stalinists to the ‘democratic bourgeoisie’ as allies of the Soviet Union but at the expense of the world revolution. The new bourgeoisies would prevent the workers from rising up and be rewarded as the junior partners of imperialism. In every case such political ‘independence’ was a sham that ensured continued economic slavery. So in South Africa the SACP dutifully wrote the Freedom Charter as the Stalinist road to socialism.

The ANC in power since 1994 has proved beyond question the validity of the Leninist-Trotskyist conception of national liberation via permanent revolution. In the colonies and semi-colonies where the national liberation movement went on to overthrow the national bourgeoisie and defeat imperialism this proved that it was possible to win a partial national liberation and independence from imperialism. But these were not ‘pure’ workers revolutions. These were petty bourgeois revolutions that expropriated the bourgeoisie and resulted in transitional deformed workers states such as China, Vietnam and Cuba, ruled by bureaucratic elites, living off the backs of the workers and peasants. Such transitional states would be overthrown by workers political revolutions and become healthy workers states, or they would revert to become restored capitalist states. Political revolutions could only arise out of an international working class movement led by an international party and program committed to permanent revolution. What does all this mean for South Africa today?

Revolutionary leadership

We can see that when NUMSA breaks with the ANC, the national bourgeois lackey of imperialism, but does not take the road of permanent revolution, it cannot succeed in creating the conditions for socialism. That is why revolutionaries in South Africa must be clear about their program. When NUMSA breaks from the ANC and SACP, and fights for COSATU to break also, to form a new mass political party, it must be supported, but very critically by raising the transitional program for permanent revolution. 

When NUMSA argues for implementing the Freedom Charter we must say: “The reformist politics of the Freedom Charter for completing the nationalisation the South African and imperialist corporations, is nothing more than the SACP Stalinism of the ANC, now dressed up as the ‘win-win’ partnership with China on the road to  ‘market socialism’.  The road to China, Vietnam or Cuba, of merely nationalising capitalist property and calling it ‘socialist’, leads inevitably to a new capitalist tyranny over the workers.”

Moreover when the road advocated by the EFF, the WASP and other left currents, to form a mass party with a program for South Africa to join the Bolivarian bloc of nations with China against US and EU imperialism, we must say: “China is not the model for South African socialism. It is a restored capitalist state that has become a new imperialist power that super-exploits workers and peasants in all of Africa and the world. Its rivalry with the US threatens to engulf us in a new world war.”  

When the left reformists call for a national socialist program for South Africa, revolutionaries must point out that South Africa is not a single country but a vital part of all Southern Africa and the whole of Africa. The working class and landless peasants know no borders. They form a surplus army of migrant workers super-exploited and super-oppressed who move across and between continents.

We must therefore call for the unions to recruit all workers, employed, unemployed, or whatever language, ethnicity and gender and build a mass party based on the workers councils and militias to unite all working people to overthrow the South African state and defeat its imperialist backers in their attempts to destroy 
the Southern African revolution. 

A revolutionary communist action program:

  • Workers to take control of their unions as fighting democratic unions!
  • Build a mass workers party based on the reclaimed unions!
  • Form local workplace and community councils and self defence militias!
  • Mobilise for a general strike to bring down the government and replace it with a Workers and Peasants Government!
This government will then impose a plan to create a socialist economy based on the expropriation of all capitalist property, national and MNC, the mines, the banks, the farms, etc., under workers democratic control.

Such as program will unite workers of all Africa and enable a Federation of Socialist Republics to be established on the continent!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aotearoa: Mana, a Movement for Reform or Revolution?

The NACT regime is fearful of both Mana and the new Dotcom party so they are spinning a campaign to smear both as they talk about an alliance to get over the 5% electoral threshold.  Well the NACTs would know all about the 5% threshold. But is Mana selling out to a rich 'internet pirate' in danger of being extradited to the US, or is there some logic to Mana doing a deal with Dotcom?
Mana is not very left wing. It is basically a Maori nationalist party with some populist elements linked to the Australian Green Left and the Bolivarians in Latin America. Mana came out of the Maori Party, itself a split from the Labour Party in opposition to the former Labour government “Foreshore and Seabed Act" effectively confiscating Maori claims to rights to the Foreshore and Seabed such as aquaculture and mining. But the Maori Party was always committed to the emerging capitalist tribal, or iwi, leaders whose interests were not those of the mass of Maori workers. They proved this by joining in a coalition with the National Government alongside ACT and NZ Future.  
Harawira split from the Maori Party to form the Mana movement when it proved incapable of standing up to its National Party partner to defend ordinary Maori. It appeared that Hone Harawira had been trying to meet the needs of poor and working class Maori as a Maori Party MP, and was obstructed by the Maori party leadership because of their alliance with the capitalists. The lesson should have been that an alliance with capitalists will not meet the needs of working or poor. Has Mana taken that lesson on board?
Mana took those dissatisfied Maori party members those who agreed that the Maori Party were betraying the needs of working and poor Maori in government with National. Mana enlisted Unite union official Matt McCarten as campaign manager and gained some union activist support. Mana movement also attracted some working class activists and left wing activists including some from Socialist Aotearoa (SA) and International Socialists Organisation (ISO).
Mana’s policy reflects the diverse membership – influenced by Maori nationalism and a popular practical ‘social welfare’ for the poor. “Feed the kids” has been one of Hone Harawira’s more potent policies raised in parliament. However just as the Maori Party was formed to defend the right of iwi to set up capitalist corporations to exploit the Foreshore and Seabed, Mana’s policies for the poor are a compromise with capitalism. They seek to patch up a problem within capitalism, rather than overthrow the entire system. As such it is a movement for reform and not a movement for revolution.  Let’s see how this works in practice.
Mana movement for reforms not revolution
Housing - Mana participated in the fight against privatisation of state housing areas in Glen Innes, Porirua and Hastings. It is committed to state housing and has picketed and blocked trucks removing state houses from Glen Innes. This is a good tactic but it is being used to push a parliamentary strategy rather than building a working class movement on the ground. Mana failed to build support in the community and in the unions against the removals to not only picket but occupy these homes with working class families that need the homes. Instead they used small groups of locals and supporters in futile attempts to stop the removals.  As a result Mana’s weakness and desperation lead to individuals staging risky stunts and members being arrested – including leaders such as John Minto and Hone Harawira. This has reduced housing activism to no more than political diversions such as road trips to Wellington (parliament) and letters to politicians.  As a result the NACT regime has successfully divided Maori into competing over a declining stock of houses with Kaitaia Maori receiving relocated Glen Innes houses and Whakatane Maori offering to buy up State houses for removal.
Workers struggles - Mana has had victories in some picket line protests – shaming an Otara retailer into removing gambling machines, and embarrassing the Auckland city council into exploring other options for an East – West motorway from the airport (instead of through Mangere suburban housing area).  These are notable because they are based on the effective rallying of working class communities which then have the potential to get politically involved in a questioning and challenging Mana’s reformist strategy. Generally however, Mana has only supported union pickets as followers not as leaders. Except for those in Mana who are involved in the Unite! union they have not given priority to campaigns for workers in struggle against the capitalist class.  Similarly, the Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP), founded by Mana co-Vice President Sue Bradford, a pressure group that is active in campaigning for the poor, does not promote itself as recruiting the poor to the unions, nor the Mana Party itself. The Mana movement is therefore fragmented and aimed at local body and parliamentary politics rather than aimed at building a united working class mass base capable of developing into a revolutionary movement. 
Against Asset sales – Instead of workers occupations of state assets against sales, Mana has played into the hands of private capitalism by supporting the Maori Council legal fight (injunction) against the sales (for Maori rights as capitalist rights). Power station workers combined with working class communities could occupy these sites together. However we would need to cut the power to the capitalist class to stop the sales. And that would have raised the question of who has the power? – a revolutionary working class; or a parasitic capitalist class. What is needed is more direct action that mobilises the local working class communities in the issues that matter.  The weakness of organised working class movement outside parliament cannot be overcome by being again and again diverted into parliamentary dead-ends.

Parliamentary partners - Mana has agreed to talks with the capitalist-aligned Maori Party (who props up this capitalist government – and backs their anti-worker actions).  The Maori Party are dedicated to being at the capitalist table. In talks, they agreed to work together on common programmes for the poor. This is further evidence of a non-revolutionary party: A party committed to working with self-declared capitalists is in bed with the bosses. If Mana is serious in fighting for the poor working class it needs to split the remaining workers from the Maori Party leadership. This is also true for Labour and the Greens? Now Matt McCarten is the “Chief of Staff” for Labour leader, David Cunliffe, will he attract the working poor back to Labour? Where does that leave Mana in relation to Labour?
Many on the left including the small 's' socialists who are active in Mana support McCarten’s strategy for a left-coalition government in which the leftish Greens and Mana will pull Labour to the left. But even at best this is an Australian Green Left/Boliviarian reformist strategy of reviving social democracy in the belief that capitalism can be reformed and ‘socialism’ legislated into existence.  As we have argued many times, a reborn social democracy today is looking to China as a ‘populist’ if not ‘socialist’ power capable of uniting all the oppressed nations of the world in a bloc against the dominant power of the US and its allies.
NZ left in and around Mana
The International Socialists Organisation (ISO), Socialist Aotearoa (SA), and Fightback, are tiny left organisations that work inside or around Mana. They claim to be ‘socialist’ but over many years they have participated in popular fronts where they hook up with a layer of the capitalist class.  While they promote worker activism, they are at risk of betraying working class interests to the capitalists. This is what happens internationally when these parties align themselves to the Green Left/ Bolivarian bloc with China which today is also an imperialist country exploiting the masses on every continent.
Even if their support is ‘critical’ which means that they do not endorse the complete program of Mana, and reserve the right to criticise it, they end up effectively supporting the Mana program which is fundamentally reformist and geared to give Maori a fair share of kiwi capitalism. For example the asset sale campaign has become a shadow of the campaign that it was. Instead of the working class getting mobilised in the streets and occupying the assets, the struggle was demobilised. Now it’s only a paper war, ticking the boxes. It has been diverted into parliament with the petition and referendum begging for notice from the ruling class which of course ignores it. The capitalists go right ahead with their sales agenda.
Mana’s reformist program shows that those on the ‘left’ inside Mana who object to alliances with Labour, Greens, of Dotcom because they are ‘capitalist’, are sowing illusions in Mana as ‘revolutionary’. As we argue in the section below on ‘Social Democracy and Revolution’, to build an extra-parliamentary mass revolutionary party it is necessary to destroy all those parties that drag workers into parliament on the promise to reform capitalism. Against the ‘ultralefts’ we adopt Lenin’s strategy of supporting such parties like a "rope supports a hanged man”.
Mana and Dotcom?
We can see that Mana stands for reforming capitalism in alliances with political parties that have links to the capitalist ruling class such as the Maori Party, the Greens, and the Labour Party. This reformist strategy is based on building a parliamentary majority so its first requirement must be getting enough votes to become the government. That’s why Mana is talking to Kim Dotcom and the new Internet Party. There is no doubt that Dotcom is a capitalist who made his millions with his internet Megaupload and Mega businesses. But in order to stay in business Dotcom has to fight the giant monopolies that dominate the internet and the media empires. Both Dotcom and Mana have an interest in campaigning for internet freedom against the media and other monopolies that control global wealth for the 1% against the 99%. 
So there is reformist logic in a political agreement between Mana and Dotcom. It’s unlikely to be a formal alliance but one in which common policies are jointly defended. This could be a commitment to electoral cooperation and /or to policy proposals around the internet, spying, rights of minorities, etc. Such an agreement could easily be part of a wider left coalition in Government. As revolutionaries our position is not to moralise about who owns fast cars or fascist memorabilia, but to judge deals on whether or not they advance the interest of workers.
Social Democracy and Revolution
In the last issue of Class Struggle we spelled out our position on the Labour Party as a capitalist party and the need to build a Revolutionary Socialist Labour Party capable of leading a socialist revolution in NZ that will smash the state and replace capitalist parliament with a Workers State. We will not go over all the arguments again. What is important here is that such a new RSLP will not arise out of thin air but out of those who currently vote for existing parties of the left who become convinced  that they are betraying the interests of workers and who split to the left to build that new party.
Our attitude towards the McCarten strategy of a left coalition is that it is necessary to give critical support to such a coalition to put it in government so that it can be shown up as pro-capitalist and anti-worker. But this can only work if a left coalition keeps left and doesn’t include in it openly capitalist or openly racist and chauvinist parties like NZ First. This is because the left becomes a hostage to the right to stay in government so that the right can be blamed for broken promises to the workers. So who would we give critical support to in such a left coalition?
The Greens are a 'cross class party' because while largely based on the petty bourgeois or middle class, they are in some areas more ‘left’ than Labour especially on the environment and global warming which brings them up against monopoly capital. Labour itself is a divided party with a capitalist program but a working class base. It too includes a large middle class element. In short we would give critical support to a Labour/Green/Mana coalition government where beyond confidence and supply agreements the parties remain independent. Each party would then be judged on delivering on its own promises and not who else they can blame for its failure to deliver. This would allow workers to judge them on how they matched words and deeds, and prove that parliament is a bosses’ talk shop and that workers need to build a mass revolutionary party for socialism.
In the event that Mana makes a deal with the Internet Party or any of the other reformist parties for the purposes of getting a left coalition into government we would have no principled objection to such an agreement. We would also consider giving critical support to the Internet Party if its program advances the interests of the working class e.g., opposition to spying and the TPPA, and support for 'free' education' and 'free internet', which collide with the interests of global finance capital. A new revolutionary party will not fall from the sky but arise out of the struggle of workers in defence of basic democratic rights and social and economic security. That includes the majority working class being able to vote for a government of their choice so that they learn that real democracy is impossible unless they go all the way to the overthrow of the capitalist state and the creation of a Workers and Oppressed Government. (See article on the ‘Spanish Marches March 22’ in Class Struggle, 108).

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