Developments in NUMSA are of considerable significance, portending substantial changes in the South African political landscape. Notably this entails the possible fatal split of COSATU and the ANC-led alliance. But as with all break-ups, one cannot be certain what will follow. From NUMSA’s statements it does not intend to act hastily but will embark on a process of consultation in order to build a broad united front that may in turn lead to the formation of a workers’ party.
Immediately the character of this alternative is, however, defined in class reductionist terms, and described as revolutionary Marxist Leninist: focusing on the organised working class. The organised working class is only one section of those who suffer under corruption, violence and enrichment that characterises the Zuma administration.
A meaningful front that challenges the systemic features of the current order needs to be broad. It must open itself to all those who oppose the destruction of hard won constitutional rights, and attacks workers and all vulnerable people including women as well as those who suffer repression because of their sexual orientation. NUMSA, thus far, demonstrates unwillingness to build a truly broad front and makes the entry level a form of exclusion.
This also entails a hierarchy of oppression, with the organised working class being prime or sole claimants to recognition. The Zuma project is violent and the violence relates to patriarchy. Any serious opposition to the current order cannot ignore that. Finally, the focus on Zuma’s resignation pays insufficient attention to the pattern of relationships that have been built and will continue, even if Zuma goes. To be an emancipatory force, NUMSA needs to be open to a wider range of movements and issues that concern sectors beyond the organised working class.
Professor Raymond Suttner is attached to Rhodes University and UNISA.
He writes a regular column and is interviewed weekly on Creamer
Media’s polity.org.za. Suttner is a former political prisoner and was
in the leadership of the ANC-led alliance. He blogs at