Hands off COSATU

by Mar 8, 2013All Articles

How ironic that the attack on COSATU comes from within. Ironic but not unexpected. Supporters of the SACP/ANC faction in COSATU want to get rid of Vavi as he is too independent minded and too critical of Zuma and the government.

He has been outspoken against the failure of government to implement the Polokwane resolutions, the continuity with neoliberal pro growth economics, determined to fight the predatory corrupt elite through the formation of Corruption Watch. He has also been too independent working more closely with civil society formations like Section 27 and flirting with building popular alliances through initiatives like the COSATU – Civil Society Conference of 2010, which drew great anger from the SACP and ANC.

In front of the majority of COSATU delegates at the October 2012 Congress they did not have the numbers to oust Vavi and shift COSATU to a compliant ANC transmission belt. A false truce was called.

However, in the CEC they thought they had the numbers, hence the extraordinary attack on the General Secretary. Alleging financial irregularity with the demand for his suspension is to put him on the defensive and to take him out of the day-to-day running of COSATU. For the moment the plot has failed.

But who are the THEY. These are lieutenants of the SACP’s General Secretary, Blade Nzimande and Chairperson Mantashe. They have gained the leadership of a number of COSATU affiliates through SACP caucusing. They are not Communists, at best they are social democrats and at worst Stalinists of the old school.

They believe that the path to power is through the ANC, no matter how centre or right its policies. They have consequently liquidated the SACP into the ANC but not just the ANC but the state itself. They are the most loyal and resolute defenders of ANC President Zuma regardless of Nkandlagate or any other of his many follies. They consequently end up defending the indefensible such as the Secrecy Bill, the Marikana Massacre, Youth Wage Subsidy.

They support the New Growth Path and the National Development Plan, in spite of the fact that the main neoliberal precepts that marked GEAR remain the foundations of these policies.

They call this the national democratic revolution by which they mean the ANC is the true and only representative of the nation. Their so-called ‘NDR’ is, in effect, nothing more than a cover for a continuing capitalist dispensation, presided over by a new comprador bourgeoisie.

Inside COSATU they fight against class struggle positions. They oppose militant action against labour brokering, E-Tolls, . They are the leaders of those trade unions that have bought into collaboration with the employers, through social contracts, share-equity schemes, productivity accords etc. Their personal life-styles, salaries, cars, housing, private schooling etc. are not too different from top state officials and private sector managers.

But the attack on COSATU from within has been enabled and orchestrated from without. Zuma’s promise of a left shift from Mbeki’s neoliberalism has been betrayed / thwarted. The ANC at Mangaung nailed its colours to the mast of its BEE backers – the Motsepes, Ramaphosas’ etc. The adoption of the NDP with its pro-business policies requires an Alliance that does not rock the boat. That in the words of the NDP sacrifices or trades wages for jobs. But as Minister Gordhan has made clear in his budget the outlook for jobs is bad. So the government, to please the rating agencies needs labour stability and compliance from COSATU. COSATU is expected to accept wage moderation, corporate restructuring (read retrenchments), special economic zones, youth wage subsidies without a fight.

But a major part of the working class is not willing to accept this. 20 years after the end of Apartheid they are no longer willing to wait for the crumbs dropping from the table of social accords. That was the real meaning of the mine and farmworker strikes and labour militancy of 2012. It’s the significance of Marikana.

And a substantial part of COSATU under pressure to deliver to its members are no longer willing to pull in their stomachs and accept moderation. Even the business press cautions against sweetheart unionism. (Quote)

So Nzimande and Mantashe are deployed by their masters in the ANC to neutralise the militants in COSATU. Stop the rot they are told and bring COSATU back into the fold. Hence Vavi is the first target of attack. Neutralise him and you arrest the drift of COSATU.

All progressive forces that still believe we can fight the post apartheid trajectory towards growing, inequality, joblessness, poverty, corruption and authoritarianism through redistributing wealth must unite to defend COSATU.

In respect of the attack on Vavi we must say an injury to one is an injury to all.

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