Who can forget that powerful clarion call, issued by Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, as the closing words of the Communist Manifesto.
A century and a half later, as unionists and communists, we still strive to unite the working class – convinced that this is the only way to improve the conditions of the workers, to gain and protect labour and human rights – and ultimately to lose the chains of monopoly capitalism and build a new socialist order.
As the world marks this International Workers’ Day 2015, the South African Communist Party is of the view that 1994 represented a vital democratic breakthrough – entrenching political, labour and human rights – and defeating apartheid, it did not bring about the defeat of monopoly capitalism.
Indeed ‘the beast’ adapted and adopted new strategies to undermine workers and grow profits amongst others being:
- Labour brokering
- Out-sourcing and retrenchments
- Divide and rule tactics – eg the support for the vigilante AMCU.
Monopoly capital embarked on a massive investment strike – preferring to move funds overseas – in some years up to 20% of the country’s gross earnings – denying investment and jobs to the people of South Africa who created that wealth in the first place.
Monopoly capital also works through narrow BEE – creating tenderpreneurs, using bribery and frontmen – what we have called the parasitic black bourgeioise. They have become very bold to such an extent that even sections of the SABC, the public broadcaster, have been privatised using Naspers and Multichoice lackeys inside the SABC. Their corrupt tentacles reach even inside the labour movement promoting what we have called business unionism.
Our task, as labour and as communists, is to educate, organise and mobilise our people to defeat the machinations of monopoly capital – including the tenderpreneurs within our own movement.
We have a platform in the form of the ANC’s programme adopted at Mangaung – which we have dubbed; ‘the second more radical phase of our transition to democracy’ – in which we prioritise the socio-economic demands and needs of our people.
We will not get there however, unless we are united and organised. This May Day, the South African Communist Party calls for:
- A powerful, militant, independent and progressive COSATU – rooted in shop-floor worker control and service to members;
- Commitment to the constant struggle to unite all workers – never losing sight of the primary contradiction and our primary enemy: monopoly capital. We must not allow ourselves to be divided over secondary contradictions. As trade unionists objective circumstances mean that we are regularly forced to compromise with the employer. Perhaps we need to explore a more pragmatic – but principled – approach to workers and organisations who do not share the same politics as us – in pursuit of our common class interests?
- We have always been at our strongest when we combine work-place and community-based struggles. We call for an active campaigning Alliance which takes up the broader issues of working class communities – housing, transport, land, corruption, the mashonisa and credit bureaux, security, crime and drugs, education and health care.
Internationalism versus Xenophobia
The recent xenophobic attacks were a national shame which undermine our traditions of democracy, working class solidarity and Ubuntu. The vast majority of South Africans agree – and they showed this by joining the unions and the Alliance in sending a clear message that this xenophobic violence – that is not who we are as South Africans
The ANC-led government has mobilised on an unprecedented scale to bring the violence to an end and to address underlying challenges. Indeed the recent SADC Summit on Industrialisation welcomed the measures taken by the government of South Africa.
Ministers and Members of Parliament were deployed to go back to communities and constituencies to engage, to calm the situation and to listen to the people – all of the people.
Many important lessons have been learnt. Firstly, mass migration is an international phenomenon – as millions of desperate poor people flee poverty and oppression – usually the inevitable results of monopoly capitalism and imperialist machinations.
Secondly, unlike in most of Europe where inward migration has led to the rise of violently anti-immigrant right-wing parties; South Africa has no organised political support for xenophobia. The bourgeois media commentators and political opportunists didn’t notice this. There is one reason for this – the democratic anti-racist traditions of our national liberation movement and the continued hegemony of the Alliance.
Of major concern is the divide and rule strategy of South African bosses in pursuit of cheap labour and to undermine organised labour. In the days before the Durban violence, employers in Isipingo employed foreign workers to break a strike. Our job as unionists and communists is to educate those strikers that the enemy is the bosses – not the desperate foreign workers.
Uncontrolled immigration is a concern. Government is currently engaging in a process to border control systems so we are able to properly document, process and account for who is in the country. Corruption at any level during this process must be defeated.
Working together with organised labour, the Department of Labour must increase its inspectorate to enforce basic conditions and legal minimums – to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers. In cases where buildings that have been taken over by criminals – whether South-African or non-South African – these must be reclaimed by the state.
Only the liberation Alliance offers a radical economic programme to address the root causes of unemployment, poverty and inequality. As Labour and the SACP we have a proud history which should guide us at this time:
- Clements Kadalie – leader of the ICU (Industrial and Commercial Workers of Africa) in the 1920s – was an immigrant (from Malawi);
- Many of the early communists and trade unionists were immigrants – fleeing persecution in Europe (Ray Alexander, Joe Slovo);
- The mighty NUM – in an industry built on immigrant labour – organised all workers in the mines. That is the perspective we bring as labour and as internationalists.
On May Day we celebrate proletarian internationalism and we pledge our solidarity with the struggles of oppressed peoples – and those fighting imperialism in all parts of the world.
Today let us remember the plight of the Palestinian people – who have been subjected to land grabs, illegal occupation and the denial of human rights by the Zionist regime for nearly 70 years. Indeed, for a South African government minister to visit a Palestinian minister requires the permission (and a visa) from the Zionist jailers. Such is their arrogance, backed by US imperialism, that they see no problem in openly advertising this denial of sovereign rights to the Palestinians.
The Israeli Foreign Minister accused the SACP of supporting the Palestinians because ‘like attracts like’. The minister of this racist regime thought he was insulting us. But he was right: we stand for the same things, the same struggle – against racism, occupation and imperialism, and for national liberation.
We have not forgotten the very close relationship between the Israeli government and the apartheid regime. It’s true: ‘like attracts like.’
On this May Day – as we resolve to strengthen and unite the South African working class – let us never forget our international duty to support all those who struggle against imperialism and oppression.
‘An injury to one, is an injury to all’
Comrade Thulas Nxesi is the Deputy Chairperson of the SACP