Letters to the Editor

by Feb 11, 2015Magazine

Dear Amandla!

At a time when the crisis in Cosatu has reached breaking point and we can expect the emergence of a new trade union movement or federation, it is critically important for left trade unionists to draw some lessons from the crisis. Cosatu’s demise is not just about the way the sacp has intervened to block the trade union federation from adopting a more independent and critical role as regards the anc government. Clearly, that is a big part of the story. The attemptto remove Cosatu general secretaryVavi at the 2012 Cosatu congress was orchestrated by the Party, in the face of Vavi’s scathing critique of the Zuma government. It was also motivated by resentment of the criticism directed byVavi, numsa and other affliates at the sacp of the way the Party abandoned working class politics and liquidated itself into the anc and the state. But these tensions and divisions do not fully explain the malaise in the trade union movement. What Cosatu calls ‘social distancing’, or the phenomenon ofbureaucratisation, is a massive problem in the labour movement. Union offcials are not accountable to their members, they use their position to improve their own life style at the expense of the members and tasting the ’good life‘ they abandon their responsibility to service their members with dedication. Part of the problem is the full-time shop steward. On the one hand they represent a gain for the movement, in that they can dedicate their time at work towards building the union representingtheir members, full-time. But on the other hand they have become a major problem. Much internal fighting takes place to win the coveted position of a full-time shopsteward. The skirmishes for the position exacerbate factionalism and undermine shopfloor democracy. Then there is also the corruptinginfluence of the investment companies. They have to be understood as a source of business unionism and corruption, andthey serve as part of the crony capitalism that has become so rampant. Worker control and democracy – to the extent they embody the principles of a renewed, regenerated and militant trade union – can only flourish if we ban full-time shop stewards and abandon directing workers’ monies into buttressing capital through investment companies. Stanley Davids, Numsa Atlantis

Dear Amandla!

It is vital that the media continues to focus on Gaza and Palestine followingthe criminal Israeli assault on Gaza. It is clear that whatever Israel thinks, they have gained by the massive destruction of Palestinian infrastructure,not least the genocidal murder of more than 2000 Palestinians. In relation to ‘hearts and minds’ they have su••ered a massive public relations setback. In the us, the Zionist lobby has taken a massive beating and the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions (bds) campaign has scored some remarkable success. These gains for the solidarity movement need to be consolidated by providing information and analysis of the post-war situation. For example,there is growing evidence that Israel is profiting from the reconstruction of parts of Gaza. An unnamed European Union (eu) offcial quoted in news outlets said it was outrageous that a countrythat had just demolished 25,000 homes was ‘demanding [that] its construction industry rebuild them at the expense of the international community’. What is more, under the guise of reconstruction, the un will be monitoringand gathering private information about Palestinian households to be passed onto Israel, which will have a veto over which families get aid to rebuild their homes. Hence, it is important to continue to strengthen our solidarity with Palestinians and to isolate Israel through bds. More than that, it will be important to organise exchange visits to Gaza to report on the reconstruction efforts and the current situation. Alex Hotz, Chair of the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum

Dear Amandla!

The economic freedom fighters will be hosting their first National People’s Assembly in December this year. A constitution, policies and various resolutions will be adopted. A national leadership will be elected. Many things are at stake in this Assembly. By far the most important is whether the growing tension between Marxist and Africanist tendencies in the eff will be well managed or will give rise to hardened factions. What has been impressive about the rise of the eff has been its ability to relate to the youth on a radical platform. The idea of economic freedom in our lifetime is easy to relate to and makes sense. The Party has been able to talk to both the unfulfilled social and national aspirations of the youth. There is a sense within the eff’s mass constituencythat they suffer both class and national oppression. It would be a mistake for the eff to fail to articulate how these two sources of the marginalisation of the black youth in the country mutually reinforce each other. The black consciousness movement lost its way by trying to essentialise the one against the other. The eff needs to speak in terms of race as well as class. In this sense it is a healthy dynamic for the eff to have both strong Marxist and Africanist tendencies. Hopefully both currents will be allowed to flourish so the organisation can gain from the interplay between these analytical frames. James Mohapi, Limpopo Provincial government and serving in local government. If they cannot ensure that government acts in the interests of workers and the poor, then why are they there? The anc government is, in the final instance, an agent of finance capital. They enable their dominance of the sa economy by failing to oppose it. The sacp’s impotence is as a result of their class collaboration. Bells Twani, Khaylitsha

Dear Amandla!

A recent article on the financial sector by sacp general secretary Blade Nzimande in Business Day (16 October 2014) and reprinted in the sacp’s online publication, Umsebenzi fails to acknowledge the depth of the problems we are facing. While correctly pointing to the problem of the current ‘investment strike’ (more than R1,3 trillion lies idle in bank accounts) it fails to paint the full picture of the financialisation of the South African economy. Nzimande steers away from a critique of government policy that has systematically enabled this to happen. It is not as if the Zuma government has reversed the liberalisation of exchange controls and the financial markets more generally. Of course massive pressure has been exerted by local and international capital. The truth is, this government has no appetite to take on the banks, insurance house and finance capital more generally. sa has a very large capital account deficit that makes it necessary to attract short-term flows into our bond markets, stock markets and etc. The government does not want to destabilise the situation by acting against the financial vultures. They are scared of the credit rating agencies that wait in the wings to downgrade our credit at the hint of a more radical stance. It is not as if the sacp is not aware of the importance of implementing capital controls that would prevent the outflow of capital as a necessary step to dealingwith the debilitating financialisation of the sa economy. And what about the mashonisas that feed of the poverty of the workers and the poor? Surely we need to completely overhaul the Credit Act and stop the charging of excessive interest rates. Surely the practice of unsecured lending that brought the African Bank to its knees must stop. If the sacp was serious about dealing with financialisation, it would campaign for the cancellation of the debts of the poor, especially the millions that are victims of usury. The sacp governs through being part of the anc, integrated in the cabinet.

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