South African Communist Party
May Day Message, 1 May 2016
Let us unite our movement, Let us close ranks, Let us defeat the strategic agenda of imperialism and monopoly capital!
Let us consolidate and accelerate a second radical phase of the NDR.
We have just celebrated twenty-two years of majority rule in SA. Twenty-two years of democracy led by the ANC and its alliance. Twenty-two years is both a long time…and a short time. It is a short time in which to address the terrible legacy of centuries of colonial, racial and capitalist dispossession, genocide, oppression and exploitation.
We should not underestimate what we have collectively achieved over this short period – a constitutional democracy, worker rights, the mass roll-out of subsidised housing, water connections, sanitation, school enrolment, adult literacy, the world’s largest free roll-out of anti-retrovirals, significantly improving life expectancy.
One third of South Africans are now benefiting from social grants – the largest per capita roll-out in the world. In twenty-two years we have provided household electricity to 6-million households. White minority regimes only achieved 5-million household electricity connections in over 100 years!
Twenty-two years is a short-time – but still we could have done, and we should have done much better. Unemployment in the narrow definition at 25% and at least 35% in the broader definition is a major crisis. Poverty still wears a black face. We remain one of the most unequal societies in the world.
But 22 years of sustained if uneven democratic transformation is also a relatively long time when compared to other revolutions. Many revolutions, some initially more radical than our own, after two decades in power have completely lost direction, have gone off the rails, have descended into anarchy, or become bureaucratic, even oppressive. In China, 20 years after their revolutionary breakthrough, the Communist Party, the government and society was racked by turmoil, violence and factionalism – from which the country was only to recover over a decade later.
Closer to hand, as COSATU and the SACP we witnessed the tragic deterioration of the Zimbabwean revolution. After 1980 very important social gains were advanced in Zimbabwe – in health care, in basic education, in land reform. But around twenty years after liberation, under pressure from the IMF and with growing authoritarianism, the state apparatus was launched against the workers’ movement, against social movements, and against democratic gains. The tragic results are still to be seen today.
Today, in Brazil, the PT, the Workers Party and the country’s President, Dilma Rousseff are facing a constitutional coup and the prospect of impeachment which will threaten critical advances made in terms of worker rights, a national minimum wage, a comprehensive social security system and many other gains.
This is the result of an unceasing offensive against the Workers’ Party by internationalised monopoly capital, by US-backed hostility, by an established middle-class elite, and by all of the Brazilian commercial media. But it is also the result of internal challenges, related to the difficulties that left-wing and national liberation movements encounter when trying to govern on the terrain of a capitalist society.
Our revolution is not necessarily an exception. We have survived over two decades, but there is much that is problematic and there are many vultures gathering. We must neither be despairing nor denialist. Today we are facing an exceptionally difficult situation, but we have traditions, we have critical sites of power, and we have shown resilience.
The basic message of the SACP on this, May Day 2016 is:
Let us unite our movement, let us close ranks, let us defeat the strategic agenda of imperialism and monopoly capital. Let us consolidate and accelerate a second radical phase of the NDR.
But on what programmatic basis do we unite? Is it unity simply for the sake of unity? Is it unity for public appearances? No, and again: No! Is it unity because local government elections will be held on August 3rd? Yes, that’s part of it, but that isn’t a sustainable basis for revolutionary unity. After all, we have been there before.
Let us close ranks on the basis of a strategic programme and active organisation and mobilisation focused on the needs and aspirations of the workers and poor of South Africa. To do that – we must say NO to the politics of money. NO to the politics of factions. NO to the politics of gate-keepers. NO to the politics of personal ambition and opportunism.
COSATU, the largest federation in South Africa, has correctly chosen the theme for May Day 2016 as: “Celebrating 30 years and Defending Collective Bargaining, Workers’ Jobs and Rights”.
The South African Communist Party as a steadfast ally of COSATU fully supports exactly these demands. The SACP has consistently stood by the Federation as it has dealt with the greatest threat to its unity and existence over these past two and three years. While respecting COSATU’s independence and internal organisational democracy, the SACP has fully supported COSATU in the challenging task of re-building collective leadership in the face of personality cults, and swollen egos. No individual is bigger than the organisation. No individual owns the federation.
The SACP has fully supported COSATU and its loyal affiliates in the struggle against membership poaching, and the cannibalising of fellow affiliates. Above all, the SACP has stood shoulder to shoulder with the collective COSATU leadership in condemning opportunism, and business unionism.
Against these deviations, COSATU has correctly called for a back to basics approach – meaning, the prime task of unions is service to members – not to be springboards for individual careerism. Back to basics also means worker leadership, collective leadership, and internal democracy.
The SACP is convinced that COSATU has turned the corner. Many challenges remain, of course, but there is now stabilisation. Attempts to launch opposition federations and worker parties are clearly floundering. In their hundreds and thousands, the overwhelming majority of COSATU affiliate members have defended their Federation against attempts to set up rival formations, funded by the US, and celebrated by the neo-liberals in our country. It is no accident that Zwelinzima Vavi and the DA and even the EFF are all flirting with each other. Once you are on the slippery slope of opportunism, there are no bounds to how far down you will slide.
COSATU’s May Day 2016 theme is “Defend collective bargaining, Workers’ Jobs and Rights”. That is absolutely right.
But, together, we also need to go beyond a defensive posture. While defending collective bargaining, workers’ jobs and workers’ rights, how do we also go on to the OFFENSIVE? How do we carry the fight to our class enemies?
And this is where Alliance unity becomes the critical factor.
For as long as we are fighting our own isolated battles we will remain on the defensive. Let us combine worker power on the shop floor, with popular power in our communities, in our townships and rural villages, with democratic state power. Together, let us go on to the offensive to drive a second radical phase of the national democratic revolution.
But what does that mean?
There are many inter-related tasks, but at the heart of our struggle is the task of rolling back the monopoly power of big capital that is stifling our economy, siphoning off vast profits, casualising and retrenching workers, and over-charging citizens.
That is why we fully support Government’s announcement, made by cde Ebrahim Patel in the Department of Economic Development budget, that we will now criminalise corporate collusion. Through the Competition Commission, government has exposed collusion in bread pricing, collusion in plastics products, and massive collusion in the construction sector in the run-up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. This has resulted in large fines being imposed on many capitalist corporations.
But not a single corporate manager, not a single CEO, not a single director has gone to jail for this day-light robbery. If you steal a loaf of bread – you risk going to jail. If you steal bread from the mouths of millions of hungry children through over-pricing - you will be rewarded with share-options and a company bonus. That must now come to an end. With the criminalising of collusion, individual colluding managers and bosses must be sent to jail.
Deepen the struggle against exploitation; roll back the power of monopoly capital!
This week an important Constitutional Court judgement was made, that Nkosana Makate was indeed the inventor of the idea of "Please call me", and that Vodacom must pay what is due to him. This is one of the cases of corporate theft by capitalist oligopolies that is so common globally. Thousands of patents in the capitalist North were ideas stolen from the developing world, including from our continent. The SACP welcomes this ruling as it serves as a warning to other corporate thieves!
We must roll back the power of monopoly capital in other ways too. From the mid-1990s, with the disastrous GEAR policies, capital markets and exchange controls were over-liberalised. The result has been the massive legal and illegal flight of capital from our country by all the major corporations that had grown fat in the years of white minority rule. Monopoly capital in SA has run away from non-racial democracy. We now confront Anglo American, Old Mutual, SASOL, Investec and many others as if they were foreign investors.
Confront the parasites inside our economy, defend our democratic national sovereignty!
Even the predators who have parasitically ripped off our new democracy in more recent times, like the Guptas, are running away to Dubai with their ill-gotten wealth, leaving their employees behind to face an uncertain future. The Guptas and their supporters are, of course, trying to blame the banks, brokers and auditors for this situation. But these same banks, brokers and audit firms were very happy to be making money out of Gupta transactions for many years, for as long as they could get away with it.
But the smash-and-grab, hit-and-run greed of the Guptas has become so reckless that the banks have been warned that they are exposing themselves to international sanctions and even to losing their local operating licences if they continue dealing with these parasites. That’s the reason for what is happening – not some imperialist plot that those who are in bed with the Guptas claim. The Guptas are not patriotic, they are parasitic.
We can’t effectively deal with established monopoly capital, we can’t defend our South African national sovereignty in the face of an external imperialist agenda if the parasites inside our economy have weakened the South African Revenue Services, or undermined the developmental mandate of an Eskom, or an Armscor, or an SAA, through their plunder-preneuring activities.
The struggle against corporate capture of our democratic state is a necessary struggle to defend our people, our democracy, our constitution in the face of imperialism and monopoly capital. It is not a question of supporting the Ruperts and Oppenheimers against the Guptas, or supporting the Guptas against the Ruperts and Oppenheimers. We have to fight capitalist exploitation in all its forms.
Let’s deepen our struggle to achieve transformation of the financial sector!
This is the context in which the SACP is revitalising the financial sector campaign. In 2000 the SACP launched the Red October Financial Sector Campaign. Together with COSATU and some 50 other formations we succeeded in achieving a NEDLAC-convened Financial Sector Summit in 2002. In 2004 the Financial Sector Charter was signed, and it committed to a comprehensive review of the Charter by 2015. That didn’t happen last year, but together with COSATU the SACP has insisted on the need for an urgent second NEDLAC-convened Financial Sector Summit. This has now been agreed. It will be convened this year.
The first Financial Sector Summit resulted in important advances against monopoly capital and its agents. We achieved a partial credit amnesty. We forced transparency on the Credit Bureaux that, previously, had operated in the dark. We emancipated many from the bondage of a life-time’s unfair black-listing. As a result of our campaign the National Credit Act was passed and the National Credit Regulator was established. The NCR has been active in exposing the illegal manipulation of credit by furniture retailers like Lewis, for instance.
There has been progress but much more needs to be done to radically transform the financial sector, which lies at the heart of contemporary monopoly capitalism.
The working class and the poor, even the so-called “new black middle class”, are trapped in a massive debt crisis as we speak.
- 45% of credit active South Africans have “impaired records” – that means they are 3 months and more in arrears with their payments.
- Unsecured credit in South Africa has grown from R40bn in 2008 to R172bn in 2014
- Much of this credit is for immediate consumption, and not for investing in something durable like a house
- And, when we talk about credit for consumption, we are often not talking about luxury items - 40% of loans from micro-lenders are simply to buy food.
On top of this:
- The degree of monopoly concentration in banking in SA is amongst the highest in the world – the four largest banks hold 84% of total banking;
- And, what is worse still, at the end of last year, foreign share-holders held 50% of all of our banking shares.
Half of the massive dividend profits made by the banks from exorbitant bank charges and punishing interest rates doesn’t even stay in South Africa.
So what is to be done?
- We must advance the call for a new credit amnesty. Debt relief can take many forms, including a write-off where payment is simply unrealistic. In other cases, a significant reduction on interest rates on unpayable debt must be implemented.
- We must expose and root out all abuses of Garnishee Orders. There are many cases in which corrupt debt collectors collude with clerks of the court to bypass the Garnishee Order regulations. Affordability is supposed to be assessed before deductions are made. All too often this is not happening. There are also many cases of “court-shopping” by debt collectors. In a recent case heard in the Cape Town high court, for instance, it was found that Stellenbosch farm-workers had garnishee orders that were issued irregularly in Kimberley.
- There is also massive abuse of house repossessions and home evictions now happening in South Africa, driven by the banks, corrupt estate agents and private developers. Thousands of families are being thrown out on to the streets, on a scale that is approaching the worst of the apartheid-era’s forced removals. Regulations governing repossession must be tightened, and abusers must be dealt with. In many other countries, a repossessed house cannot be sold at a first auction at less than 95% of its market value.
Here in SA we are coming across cases in which evicted owners are not informed of auction dates. Their R400,000 houses are being sold for R2000 or R1000 – we even know of one case where a house was sold for R100. This is happening because there are syndicates that involve corrupt estate agents, bank officials, court officials, and property developers.
- There must be interest rate caps imposed on credit for productive purposes (building a factory for instance), or for social purposes (to address the crisis in the so-called gap housing market, all those who do not qualify for an RDP house but who also are turned away by the banks). One of the agreements in the 2002 Financial Sector Summit was that the private financial sector would actively support social housing investments at affordable rates. This has not happened.
- Our longer term objective is to nationalise or (more accurately) socialise the banks so that they serve the majority and contribute to a developing economy, with localisation, industrial development and job creation. But while we strive for this longer term objective, we must also greatly consolidate our own publicly-owned, and socially-owned financial resources:
- Is the PIC playing an effective developmental role, or is it too often simply advancing the interests of narrow BEE factions?
- At a provincial level there are supposedly publicly-owned provincial financial entities – R1bn is sitting in the Eastern Cape Development Corporation’s books, the Free State’s Development Corporation has reserves of R400million, in Limpopo there is Limdev, in KZN there is Ithala Bank. Is there any transparency about how their major resources are being utilised? The SACP believes that the multiple provincial financial institutions should be consolidated into a single and transparent national public financial entity – otherwise we run the risk that these entities become war-chests for provincial elites.
- We have long called for the Postbank to be given a full-banking licence. The Post Office has a footprint in the remote areas where the commercial banks simply do not exist. Of course, for the Postbank to get a full banking licence requires a major turnaround of the SA Post Office, based not a narrow commercial mandate. It is a scandal that the payment of social grants was taken away from the Post Office and given under suspicious circumstances to a shady North American outfit. This was a major factor in the current challenges facing SAPO.
These are just some of the key priorities that we need to take up in the struggle to socialise the Financial Sector.
Together with COSATU, the SACP has also prioritised other key campaign struggles.
Consolidate comprehensive social security now!
In the face of the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality, it is absolutely imperative that government consolidates a comprehensive social security policy. COSATU was correct to say that we cannot proceed with amendments to workers’ provident funds without seeing a more comprehensive government approach to social security. A comprehensive social security package includes:
- The struggle for an effective National Minimum Wage ;
- Likewise the struggle for a National Health Insurance is integral to social security. We must redouble our efforts to ensure the roll-out of a universal, solidarity NHI based on the principle that health-care is a basic human right. Access to quality health-care should not depend on the size of your pocket.
- It is now also time to begin to speak not just about the defence of workers’ jobs and workers’ rights – but also about the Right to Work. The Freedom Charter is very clear in this regard. It says: “The state shall recognise the right and duty of all to work”. Capitalism is the only economic system known to history in which those who can work, those who want to work are not necessarily able to find work.
It’s a crazy system, but capitalism needs unemployment. Full employment is a problem for capitalism because it strengthens the bargaining power of the working class. This is why we will never achieve full employment under capitalism. And this is why, in the current reality, public sector employment, including public employment programs, are a critical element in the struggle for the progressive realisation of the Right to Work for all.
Let’s unite as the working class, let’s unite our communities, let’s campaign for the election victory of our people!
In just over two months we will once more be going to local government polls. The SACP will be, and is, actively campaigning for an overwhelming ANC-led victory. In supporting the ANC’s campaign we are also saying that we support one-hundred percent the ANC guidelines on the selection of candidates. And for this principled reason we have said that where unpopular ANC candidates are parachuted onto communities by factions and money-politics in defiance of the ANC’s own selection procedures, then the ANC national structures must step in and correct matters. Failure to do so will impact negatively on the ANC’s electoral performance, and certainly the SACP will not support any factional candidate imposed by branch-level gate-keepers.
We cannot allow the ANC’s election campaign to be compromised, especially at a time when the commercial media, and the array of opposition parties are hovering around sensing blood.
None of these forces have anything substantive to offer the working class. The DA is openly hostile to COSATU and the working class in general. Their election campaign amounts to reciting two words over and over again – Cape Town, Cape Town, Cape Town. But even in Cape Town, with all of its advantages, the DA is messing up. Cape Town, more than any other metro, remains an enclave of white privilege and power. Mayor De Lille boasts about her EPWP achievements, but as we speak, Cape Town is way behind all other metros in its EPWP work opportunity targets – at a pathetic 7 percent.
The EFF, that party of plunder-preneurs, is threatening civil war. Its self-anointed “command-in-chief” says it will deal with a democratically-elected, constitutional state “through the barrel of the gun”. I don’t think Malema knows one end of a gun-barrel from the other. But that doesn’t make his threat of civil war any less sinister. It is a direct incitement to violence and to the reckless undermining of our constitution. The charge of treason must be seriously pursued. Malema struts around with an air of impunity, and this encourages his followers every week publicly on TV to openly incite arson, violence and anarchy.
And what about other alternatives? Does the so-called United Front actually exist? In its pathetic marches of the last week it looked more and more like a pale shadow of the pale shadow of something once called COPE.
We cannot allow an opportunistic coalition of these forces, funded by external money and local monopoly capital, to make serious electoral inroads.
But this means that we must also deal with our own internal challenges as a broad ANC-led alliance. We must deal decisively with corruption, factionalism and Gupterisation. We must unite our movement on the basis of a principled program biased towards the workers and the poor.
Let us unite our movement, let us close ranks, let us defeat the strategic agenda of imperialism and monopoly capital. Let us consolidate and accelerate a second radical phase of the NDR.
Summarised content delivered by Cde. Blade Nzimande, Mamelodi, Tshwane and SACP Central Committee Members at other Cosatu Rallies
Issued by the SACP, 1 May 2016