The South African Federation of Trade Unions strongly condemns an article on the BusinessLIVE website on 27 November 2018, entitled: “Saftu rejects Numsa’s Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party”, by Theto Mahlakoana.
The article purports to be a response to the statement issued by SAFTU following a meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC). Yet it fails to find anything in that statement to support either the article’s totally false headline, or to justify the article’s main allegation that SAFTU “dealt a major blow to its affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) on Tuesday, by rejecting its newly registered Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP)”.
On the contrary the NEC statement simply reaffirmed the view of SAFTU’s founding congress in 2017 which resolved to build “an independent and yet not apolitical, democratic and campaigning federation”.
The NEC affirmed that “its members, including those of NUMSA, are drawn from all existing political parties. All these members, irrespective of their individual political loyalties, have a right to be members of SAFTU-affiliated unions”.
The article goes on to make a totally unsupported allegation that “the rejection also signals what has been described as ‘fraught’ relations between Numsa and Saftu leaders”. As described by whom? No evidence is provided for this story. NUMSA participated fully and constructively in last week’s NEC.
The federation also wishes to clarify the purpose of “the major political symposium to discuss the possibility of forming a socialist-oriented workers’ party of its own with other organisations of a similar ideological posture, to which it will invite all socialist oriented parties here and abroad to discuss the possibility of the formation of a working class party”.
That sentence makes it clear that SAFTU is not suggesting that it should itself form or turn itself into such a party, but rather that in the current political vacuum the working class needs to create a political voice for itself.
In line with its commitment to not being apolitical, the federation has the duty to provide leadership to help to facilitate all working-class and socialist organizations to discuss what the NEC statement described as “such issues as the timing of the creation of a working-class party, its modalities and programme, its relationship with existing socialist-oriented parties and international experiences in forming such parties”.
This view was unanimously endorsed by the Working-Class Summit on 21-22 July 2018 at which 147 representatives of labour, communities, NGOs, civil society and informal business groups participated. It resolved to explore whether a workers’ party was a viable vehicle through which to pursue the struggles of poor people and workers.
SAFTU is now in the process of taking that resolution forward, particularly in respect of the Summit’s view, that “the process of forming such a party will be a bottom-up process”, as the NEC statement says, “that seeks to embrace all working- class formations to discuss what should be the posture and programme of such a party to contestation of political power in communities, in the economy and in parliament”.
The SRWP will of course be invited and warmly welcome to his symposium. It is not being “rejected”!
The NEC has committed itself to “work with political parties that are “genuinely taking up workers’ demands”, mentioning the EFF, which it has collaborated with on campaigns in the recent past, and to whom the federation has written to request a meeting to discuss issues of common concern, including reports of hostility by some of its members to NUMSA.
The same approach will be adopted to all socialist, or left-leaning parties, but SAFTU itself will remain independent of them all, and, as the statement says, “will resist being stampeded into becoming a labour desk for, or forming an alliance with any political party, but will work with any party genuinely taking up workers’ demands, be that the EFF or any other party”.
These references to “any political party” makes it quite clear that SAFTU was in no way singling out the SRWP or any other specific party, but was being consistent with its founding principles of independence, which must be applied equally in its relations with all parties. SAFTU has not “rejected” the SRWP!