We the 350 delegates to the SAFTU Inaugural Central Committee held on the 18 – 20 November 2019, representing 29 of the affiliated unions with a combined membership of nearly 800 000 members across all the sectors of the economy and across the length and breadth of our country hereby declare:
We are honoured to have been nominated by our unions to represent their mandates and aspirations to this august gathering of the only truly revolutionary, independent, democratic, and campaigning trade union federation in our country. We were joined by a number of the other working class formations from unions like AMCU, NACWOSA, EUSA, to other community based mass movements such as the Assembly of the Unemployed, United Front, formations of the informal sector workers, etc.
We appreciate the rare privilege and the responsibility that history placed on our shoulders to chart a way forward that will respond to the organisational challenges our young formation, SAFTU is facing. We grabbed this opportunity with both hands and used the three days of the gathering to embark on a deep and soul searching debates amongst ourselves. These debates were characterized by unprecedented levels of unity of purpose, comradeship yet we were frank and robust.
This historic Inaugural Central Committee was guided by the theme which remain our guiding motto until the next congress: Building Working Class Power in every Workplace and Community.
In facing the enormous task of building a working class power we recognise that the major crisis facing the working class is lack of viable mass based fighting organisations that can provide the strategic and political leadership capable of matching formidable challenges facing the working class and humanity today.
We are rebuilding the trade union movement and strengthening the rest of the working class formations under conditions not of our choosing. The trade union movement has been weakened primarily by betrayals of its leaderships and absolute surrender of its class and political independence. The trade union movement has been fragmented as seeds of disunity were planted by those serving the political interests of the class enemies of the working class – the ruling class. The trade union and political leadership of the workers movement have abandoned the working class in pursuit of alliances with the class enemies. In this period of deep economic and ecological crises of capitalism, brutal austerity and capitalist onslaughts against the working class, the erstwhile leaders of the workers movements not only find themselves on the side of the class enemy in a growing schism and sharpening polarization between classes, but taking political and in certain instances, personal responsibility for the onslaughts against the working class.
Whereas SAFTU has no interests in drowning them further and if anything, will continue to appeal for a united front on vital issues of common class interests for as long as sections of workers still follow them, we have, however, come to recognise that many of these former heroes are no longer in the ranks of the working class. Many of them are also feeding on the trough of corruption and looting of the corrupt capitalist politicians.
When we formed SAFTU over two years ago it was out to the recognition that the working class has become politically leaderless. Although formal membership of trade union remain one of the highest in the world, the reality is that it has been in decline. The levels of representation plummeted from around 40% in 1997 to around 24% today. Far more important however is the declining levels of active participation of workers in trade union structures and industrial actions. The hollowing out of other federations, the dismal failures of every general strikes organized by other federations recently is symptomatic of this collapse.
Trade unions exists to advance the class struggle and nothing else. That the raging class war and intensifying struggles on the industrial plane and communities increasingly bypasses the trade unions. demonstrate that these organisations have ceased to exists so far as the masses of working class people are concerned. SAFTU was formed to provide a viable alternative as an organised fighting power.
We will spare no effort and energy in rolling back the disorganization, fragmentation and paralysis of the workers movement.
We met in an environment where the South African economy has stagnated and continue to reproduce shocking and catastrophic levels of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. Corruption which is an essential part of the capitalist order has reached proportions that represent a threat not only to the working class but to society as a whole. Billions that should be used to develop our country, address its stagnated economy and industrialize are been stolen outrageously by elected representatives in the state and on a scandalously under-reported industrial scale in the private sector. Illicit financial flows alone are estimated at R1, 7 trillion in period of 2005-2014.
To overcome the falling rates of profitability in the past decades, the capitalists have accelerated and intensified levels of exploitation of the working class reminiscent of the period of primitive accumulation in Europe, slavery in Americas and apartheid era in this country. Before 2008 crisis the rate of profit had been raised to 23,9 % by increasing the rate of exploitation by 250 % to R2,50 in profit for every R1 paid in wages in 2008 compared to R1, 10 for every R1 paid in wages in 2000. The rate of profiteering was last attained in 1967 at the height of apartheid.
The skyrocketing profits are achieved through brutal suppression of wages, reversal of the gains secured over many years of struggle, the aggressive and systematic erosion of once secure and better paying jobs and their replacement by insecure precarious forms of employment through outsourcing and declaring of more workers as working in non-strategic sections has trapped more workers into the category of the working poor who effectively subsidize capital through borrowing from other members of the working class to come to work. Since the crisis, the brutality of the workplace regime has only worsened` as the capitalists are desperately seeking for return of these pre-crisis levels of profitability.
As we were meeting, news came through that the ecological crisis engulfing our country in particular our KwaZulu Natal was deepening. We saw frightening pictures of early storms and whirl winds destroying dwellings of the rural poor. Many parts of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo are fast reaching ‘day zero’ with communities scrambling for water as dams run dry as a result of sweltering heat and the legendary failure of the government to better prepare for this eventuality they were warned about many years ago. Limpopo, Northwest, Free State, Northern Cape and Western Cape have been under severe drought, which according to Hydrologists Gideon Groenewald, is “the worst in thousand years”.
Karl Marx warned that capitalism is not sustainable because it exploits and consumes the two pillars in which it rest, namely labour and environment. Poor planning and failure to operationalise even publicly announced plans such as trapping and storage of more water flowing into the occasions has now created an immeasurable crisis for the both urban and rural areas. Slowly many parts of the country are becoming uninhabitable, yet the capitalist class is relentless in its goal of pursuing profits at all costs including through the destruction of the mother earth. Ramaphosa’s drive for more investment of massive water-consuming mining projects in these drought-stricken and water-stressed areas graphically reveals the cruel logic and callousness of capitalism to human suffering.
SAFTU CC has recognized that the struggle against climate change can only be a struggle for a system change or nothing. Capitalism has created this crisis and only be ending the system itself can we move forward to a just transition to a more sustainable based on socially-owned renewable energy powered economy. SAFTU has resolved to firmly put the struggle against climate change on its agenda for rolling mass actions and to join global strikes for climate change alongside young people behind the growing mass movements for climate justice.
Everywhere in the world more so in our country the working class is facing an incredible squeeze that has turned a worker against a worker as all are finding whatever means to escape the clutches of poverty that is sentencing to death more millions across the globe. South Africa has seen unprecedented levels of xenophobia since 2008. Women and children are bearing the brunt of a society turning against itself.
The inaugural Central Committee met in middle of the worsening political attacks on the working class. On the very first day of the meeting for example, the Department of Labour wrote a letter to NUMSA and SACCA demanding to know if they had balloted their members at SAA and SAA Technical prior to embarking on a strike in line with the draconian amendments to the Labour Relations Act enacted in January this year. We unanimously condemned this intervention by the Department which seeks to use bureaucratic manouvre to outlaw and delegitimise the demands of workers for a living wage. This state intervention to secure even greater levels of super exploitation of our members reminds of the writing of Vladimir Lenin who described the state as nothing but a weapon of class rule. The state scandalously connived with the captured and compromised trade unions to pass a series of amendments to the labour laws to make it even harder for workers to exercise the right to strike which is the only weapon to contest the increasing power of the capitalist class.
We joined the SAA strike and SAA Technical picket line to express our full and undivided solidarity with these workers and condemned the management’s intransigence that has led to the strike to enter six day.
We met at the time when at the international level the world situation is extremely volatile and unstable as the imperialism is losing control of the rapidly polarising world, marked the disastrous failures of imperialist policies in the Middle-East and Latin America. The China-US trade war is precipitating a World Recession. There is a rise of populism, both Left and Right-wing populism in advanced countries of capitalism. At the same time there are mass revolts as the working class demonstrate its determination to resist and launch fight back battles to push back fascism, capitalist barbarism and the unprecedented economic squeeze.
The brazen attempts of Imperialism to impose regime changes through a right-wing military and civilian coup-d’états in countries of ‘Bolivarian revolutions” is backfiring. The US intervention in Venezuela has been repulsed by the masses, and international working class solidarity. In Bolivia, where Evo Morales was forced by the military and extreme right-wing forces backed by US imperialism, to resign, the masses of workers and indigenous people are fighting back and rising to demand his reinstatement. The malicious litigations by the Brazilian establishment used to jail Lula da Silva to keep him from returning as a state President is crumbling. Lula Da Silva has been released and if other charges are dropped, it is almost certain that he will return to power.
Mass uprisings in Hong Kong, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Greece, etc. represent a turning point in the conjuncture previously dominated by the rise of right-wing populist, fascists and other reactionary elements of the world counter-revolution. These uprisings, the women’s movements and climate change strikes are symptomatic of the developing pre-revolutionary world situation. SAFTU must connect and lead the working class to take its place in this world revolution.
We are happy to announce to our members, the working class formations we work with, international friends and supporters here and abroad the following programme of action we have adopted.
1. A programme to build and rebuild SAFTU
We adopted a comprehensive programmes of action to build the engines of SAFTU and her affiliated unions and reposition them to serve the interests of members in every workplace and community. Building the engines means strengthening workplace organisation to defend members jobs, to improve their wages conditions of employment and to stop management bulling including through racism, sexual harassment and other unfair and discriminatory practices while improving coordination of solidarity amongst workers.
Our programme includes training our shop stewards, local, provincial and national leaders as well as the officials of the union at all levels. We have adopted the Service Charter that is an inspirational document to ensure that all our cadres use it as a mirror to serve as a reminder of the political commitment we have made to our members.
We realise that failure to service members and protect them is the main reason why so many worker are no longer inspired by trade unions and political parties. We intend to address this challenge with vigour and determination as we know the relevance of SAFTU and her unions entirely depend on our efforts to make our unions relevant to workers.
We have decided to increase the subscription members pay to the federation from R1 to R150 a month. In addition, we have decided to the campaigns levy every member a R1,50 which will be paid monthly for a period of five months. We have also established a Legal Defence Fund to fight all precedence setting cases. We will join two cases that NUMSA has taken up regarding the insistence that unions must ballot members before embarking on a protected strike and the erroneous Labour Court ruling that unions should not represent members if they fall outside the scope of organising of the unions they are members of. We are also going to join MATUSA which itself has been joined by DEMASA in challenging how the agency fee has been used to block the growth of independent, democratic and campaigning unions.
We also decided to drive more aggressively mergers of unions that have overlapping scopes in order to synthesize our efforts to recruit and eliminate destructive competition for membership. About 18 of the 29 affiliates of our federation has membership of less than 10 000. While these unions are driving the growth of our federation, the need has arisen for greater levels of unity and coordination. We are encouraged by tremendous steps registered in unity talks between DEMAWUSA and MATUSA and the MWASA and the ICTU.
With greater resources we will now be able to go back and reach out and sustain our work with the youth formations, students organisations, women formations in urban and rural areas including the growing feminists movements , the landless masses, the poor and marginalised rural poor, the informal sector workers including waste pickers and small traders, the groupings battling the environment destruction, the groupings fighting xenophobia and other forms of discrimination in order form a single movement of the working class. This will be in line with the founding congress’s call for creation of a unity between workers struggles in the workplace and the struggles of the working class in the communities.
SAFTU CC reaffirmed the centrality of the working class and trade union movement in the struggle to end all these forms of injustice in the workplace and society and for a creation of society free of exploitation, inequality, violence and oppression.
Central Committee has committed SAFTU to devoting attention, efforts and resources to building structures in the provinces and locals to become organs of working class power, mass organizing, and mobilizations for the class war being waged against the working class.
2. Socioeconomic programme
The source of our misfortunes can be traced back to the behind the scenes and Nikodemus negotiations between capital and some leaders of the ANC that guaranteed the continued existence not only of capitalism but of conservative and anti-developmental neoliberal programmes that helped secured the interests of capital in a so called new era. This anti people deals were to see the securing of the stolen property through the entrenchment of the property clause in the Constitution. This real and true state capture is what has led to a situation where the former colonisers and land thieves lose nothing while the motive forces of revolution remain the face of propertyless class, landlessness, poverty, inequalities and mass unemployment.
We are extremely concerns that all signs in the global economy points to yet another imminent capitalist bubble just in less than a decade after the 2008/09 capitalist bubble that sentenced millions more workers to unemployment and poverty.
The recent elections demonstrated that the working class in particular the youth has lost hope in the formal electoral system. The majority of the citizen are not inspired by the coterie of bourgeoisies’ parties that were contesting elections. Not even the capitalist class itself that was beating the drums of the new era is hopeful about the disaster unfolding. The confidence in Ramaphosa has plummeted to new record lows last seen in the famous PW Botha’s Rubicon speech of 1985. The capitalist class is not rewarding Ramaphosa’s deepened austerity and Margaret Thatcher inspired attacks on the right to strike and workers in general. This is demonstrated by their continuous refusal to invest in the economy, mass theft and stacking away of billions through hoarding that has reached a staggering R1,4 trillion.
In the wake of this, 38,5% or 10,3 millions of our people are unemployed, 58% of our youth below the age of 24 are unemployed, 47% of the African black women are unemployed. A frightening 63% of the population lives in poverty and StatsSA confirmed what we know this week that we are the most unequal society on earth demonstrated by the reality that white workers earn three time more than their black counter parts.
The SAFTU NEC shall take forward a discussion on how we utilize retirement funds including the PIC/GEPF for developmental purposes.
We have decided to respond to the calamity. We hereby announce that there will be a series of general strikes in the coming year. But these will not be just narrow trade union strikes but a broader working class mass strikes. Our demands will center on:
· A living wage for all workers. This will include a demand for the reversal of the attacks through assault and the constitutional guarantee right to strike, collective bargaining and fair labour standards. We will ensure a more effective coordination of the living wage campaign in particular amongst the most vulnerable workers such as the security, cleaning, motor sector, etc. all these workers are facing the brunt of the arrogance of the bosses who seem to take advantage of the low levels of organisation/unionisation, the crisis of capitalism, mass unemployment and poverty amongst the workers.
· A social wage campaign that must see us taking up issues of poverty, energy security and demanding for reversal of attempts to privatise Eskom, food sovereignty and security, the introduction of the NHI that will not maintain a two tire health system that will still maintain the status quo, addressing the crisis in the public education system including the campaigns to ensure there is a culture of learning and teaching in the working class schools., an end to evictions in the farms and urban areas, campaigns to demand urgent action to reverse ecological crisis engulfing our country and the world, which has resulted in water crisis in many parts, etc.
Other critical programmes that SAFTU shall spearhead in the current period and come 2020;
1. SAFTU should join as a friend of the Court in the Samancor matter lodged by AMCU. It is unacceptable that workers and the broader working class can look pass the illicit flow of capital in front of our own eyes. It is now crystal clear that the ruling ANC Government is doing absolutely nothing to stop the illicit out flows.
2. Given the Femicide and the violence against women and children, SAFTU shall prepare programs together with our allies to make the 16 days of activism a community wide program with improved participation by workers and the working class.
3. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Fees Must Fall activists that are languishing in jail or that are currently facing trials. They have thrown their activism into the call for free and de-colonized education which the ANC has promised as a former liberation movement.
4. We reject the appointment of the new Eskom CEO not from a racial point of view but from our working class perspective. This appointment is a serious drive towards the neo-liberal program of privatizing State Owned Enterprises.
5. Given the assault on the freedom of association, dismissals and harassment of farm workers, the Central Committee resolve that we would support Csaawu in boycotting particular wine brands where employers are subjecting farmworkers to super exploitation.
6. SAFTU with its allies shall intensify our call for workers and working class representation on State Owned Enterprises. At the same time we call for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under workers control.
7. We reject the so called road map of Eskom tabled by the Department of Public Enterprises. This is nothing but a World Bank handbook for breaking down of the energy utility to prepare it for privatisation. We reject the rightwing driven hysteria that SAA must be privatised. We insist that SAA must continue to play a critical role in the development of our country, the protection of our culture and forms part of a comprehensive transport system which should include railroad and busses to provide cheap, accessible and affordable transport network system. We reject the clamor to privatise DENEL and insist that it has a critical role to play as a developer of the armory in defense of the gains of the revolution. We shall fight to ensure a bigger support for the SABC to as the only instrument that can disseminate information to the working class and marginalised without asking for exorbitant monthly rentals and pay per view subscriptions.
We instructed the National Executive Committee to in conjunction with our allies develop a mass programme of mass mobilisation and rolling mass action that will culminate in the occupation of the streets of the major citizen to pursue these demands.
3. Political declaration
1. We reaffirm that SAFTU as a socialist oriented is resolute that there is no better time for a united working class to drive a socialist program so that we concur the superstructure. In this regard the Central Committee see no Chinese Wall between the struggle for Socialism and the daily working class struggles for jobs, bread and against hunger.
2. We shall ensure that political education programs are consistently driven across all levels of the organisation to ensure that we build solid levels of class consciousness and build the necessary capacity to use Marxist tools of analysis to interpret the capitalist and imperialist world reality.
3. In considering and discussing how we foster the unity of the working class in the struggle for Socialism, we should undertake this discussion without being intolerant or sectarian. SAFTU is about a revolutionary socialist program that would seek to destroy capitalism and to usher in a Socialist South Africa.
4. In the first quarter of 2020, SAFTU shall undertake programs and activities to honour and execute the Inaugural National Congress resolution which state that the only way out of the crisis is through a mass movement of the working class guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism for the nationalisation of the mineral wealth and manufacturing monopolies, the banks and the land.
In this regard, we shall proceed in advancing the following;
a) The SAFTU Political and Ideological Commission (PIC) shall in a workshop in early 2020 work through the following matters:
o An analysis of the international balance of class forces and the state of the working class in the current struggles around the world
o Characterising the Socialist formations in South Africa premised on SAFTU’s Marxist and Leninist perspectives
o Drawing on the political and ideological work done by affiliates with a view to shape the SAFTU International Symposium. This would include international study tours that would have been undertaken to study international experiences of the struggle for Socialism
b) An assembly of the working class formations and progressive civil society formations must be convened to develop a fighting programme.
c) A conference of the left/conference on socialism must be convened to develop a minimum programme that can serve as a unity platform for the formation of the Workers Party. Only the broadest possible unity of the left forces united behind a common programme can tilt the national balance of forces for fundamental transformation of society.
d) SAFTU once all the discussions have been concluded about the modalities and the platform through a bottom up and democratic process, will catalyse the formation of a Workers Party. In doing so we shall be guided by the founding principles to jealously guard our independence from employers organisations and political parties.
5. We note that NUMSA held a Special National Congress in 2013 wherein it resolved to call for the establishment of a new independent trade union Federation, a United Front and a Workers Party.
6. In the execution of this Special National Congress, NUMSA became a catalyst for the establishment of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP). To this end, the SAFTU Political and Ideological Commission shall engage with this as part of the internal discussions.
4. The campaigns to shift the international balance of forces
D that we are going through a complicated international situation characterised by mass struggles led by the working class for a revolution and counter revolution that is taking place simultaneously and side by side.
We are internationalist that are at the same time Pan Africanist from the internationalist pespective. We shall will connect with these mass up risings that are building a revolutionary momentary in all of the continents of the world.
We shall establish an international desk immediately that must draw all the cadres of the federation doing international work. The task of this team will be to ensure that we develop capacity to analyse continuously the internal balance of forces, to improve our knowledge through exposure and political and ideological grounding of all cadres and to ensure effective coordination of international solidarity.
We have decided to launch a debate on the trends of migration. We have observed that migration follows the wealth in the world as demonstrated by a mass movement of workers in Mexico to the United States, from North Africa and Middle-East to Europe and in the African continent from the north to South Africa. We acknowledge that this is the underbelly of the workers as the competition for scarce resources and the squeeze leads to worker shifting the blame and scapegoating other workers from other parts for what is essentially a global capitalist crisis. A paper will be developed to analyse these trends so that we can be better equipped to respond in a manner that is consistent with our founding principles of being strongly opposed to any kind of discrimination including xenophobia.
We return back to our unions, workplaces and communities inspired by this rich debates. We are committed to end the paralysis that followed the inspirational mass strikes against the poverty and slavery national minimum wage in April 2018. We have taken a vow to ensure that the inaugural central committee serves as a platform to rally our forces and to reenergize for a continued strengthening of SAFTU, the sustained working together with other working class formations, the relentless campaigning together to resist austerity and other attacks on the living standards and for socialist revolution to end the capitalist rule, its oppressions, injustices and calamity threatening human existence and life in the planet.
Today than when Rosa Luxemburg first said it, the choice facing humanity is simple: Socialism or barbarism.
We chose to continue a fight for a hope in socialism than to mourn in despair over prospects of barbarism.
Don’t Mourn, Organise