A meeting of 40 unions and civil society formations was convened by the South African Federation of Trade Unions on 28–29 June 2018 to broaden participation and to shape of the agenda of the Working Class Summit (WCS) to be held on 21- 22 July 2018 at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus.
This group were invited to facilitate the participation of the broadest front of organisations of the working class. A list of the 93 civil society formations and 61 unions which have been invited was circulated and endorsed. More organisations will be included in the list.
While SAFTU has initiated, and been the main driving force behind the WCS, the meeting was seen as the inauguration of a leadership collective, drawn from movements of the working class and poor, progressive NGOs and unions, which will take responsibility for shaping and convening a broader WCS.
An overarching objective of the WCS is to overcome the fragmentation of struggles, which has characterised the movements of working class and poor in the democratic era. The WCS will aim to co-ordinate these struggles at local, regional and national levels.
Central to this objective is to unite workplace and community struggles – rural and urban, unemployed and employed, informal and formal, women and men, young and old, environmental groups with the unemployed, homeless with the rural poor, etc.
The WCS will bring together progressive forces, who are pro-poor and pro-working class. The gathering must be based on the principles of anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-patriarchy and anti-xenophobia.
It was agreed that papers will be presented at the assembly but should not be prescriptive. They should provide a brief analysis on their respective themes from the vantage point of the interests of the working class and, importantly, be framed in a way to raise questions to generate debate and discussions but more importantly make proposals on how the struggles of the working class and the poor could be best coordinated.
Papers should also reflect on struggles in particular sectors and propose demands and campaigns that can constitute the basis for co-ordinated struggles.
The papers will mainly be written by activists and movements directly involved, and playing prominent roles, in particular areas of struggle and will be distributed to delegates prior to the assembly.
Our activism and struggle can be better co-ordinated through the use of modern technology, especially if, as it is imperative, we want to involve youth. We should counter the hegemony of the ruling elite through, for example, producing our own national newspaper.
The ruling elite coalescing around Ramaphosa – in business, the state and sections of civil society – is putting its energies behind producing a new compact for the new dawn. The working class and poor must produce its own vision for a new, egalitarian society.
The WCS is not a destination, but should be seen as a an ongoing process of revitalising and revolutionising the struggles of the working class and poor across the country. Delegates to the assembly should include movements involved in various protests on the ground.
Following the national gathering, local assemblies should be organised across the country. These should be organised by local movements to discuss, contribute to and amend documents produced at the WCS. In this sense, the WCS could be seen as a movement to be defined and built from the bottom and must be located where struggles are taking place
The venue allows for ten mini-assemblies to be convened. These will probably meet for most of the first day, followed by reports and discussion on the second day.
Discussion should focus on analyses from working-class perspectives, arming movements with arguments and facts, support for existing struggles and proposals for developing co-ordinated campaigns and developing a set of key demands
The meeting agreed on the following main themes for the WCS:
Economic crisis and threats to workers; corruption in the private and public sector, including
1) Profit shifting and mis-pricing.
2) Free decolonised, quality public education, including:
3) Free National Health Service, including:
4) Decent and affordable housing and service delivery, including:
5) The Land Question, including:
6) Struggle for an egalitarian society, including:
7) The climate and environment, including:
8) Mining affected communities, including:
9) Informal Economy, including:
10) Two other possible themes came up in the discussion:
The WCS preparatory Organizing Committee (See below) will consider how best
these could be integrated into the existing themes or made separate themes in the context of the reality that the venue will accommodate only 10 themes. For example, the struggles against xenophobia and for migrant justice are necessarily international in character.
Similarly, campaigns for climate and environmental justice, decent work, the rights of workers in the informal economy, among others, require linking with struggles elsewhere on the continent and globally. Our politics must therefore be Pan-African and Global.
A WCS Organising Committee was elected whose tasks will be:
We call on all those interested in participating in the WCS to contact us.
Tel: +27 (11) 331 0124
Fax: +27 (11) 331 0176
Physical Address, 34 Eloff Street, Johannesburg 2001