Why is Cosatu so quiet on state cap­ture?

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Ben­son Ngqentsu voices@city­press.co.za

In a class-di­vided so­ci­ety you are ei­ther with the op­pressed and ex­ploited class or with the ex­ploit­ing class. There can be no po­si­tion of neu­tral­ity. This is a di­rect chal­lenge for or­gan­ised labour and its lead­er­ship as they are ex­pected to be the most re­li­able force in the class strug­gle.

Labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu can be char­ac­terised as a class fed­er­a­tion in the sense that it rep­re­sents the work­ers who col­lec­tively are of a par­tic­u­lar class in so­ci­ety and who form the crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the work­ing class.

A ne­olib­eral of­fen­sive on the work­ing class has been char­ac­terised as the “1996 Class Project”, led by former pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki. At the heart of the 1996 Class Project was the cut­ting of so­cial spend­ing; pri­vati­sa­tion that led to ex­ten­sive re­trench­ments; leav­ing the mar­ket to de­cide; a non-in­ter­ven­tion­ist state; the in­tro­duc­tion of in­fla­tion tar­get­ing; and the “mod­erni­sa­tion” of the ANC-led na­tional lib­er­a­tion move­ment, with the re­di­rect­ion of our Na­tional Demo­cratic Rev­o­lu­tion (NDR), among other things.

How­ever, we must be un­der no il­lu­sion that there were no traitors in our own ranks, ex­posed by the er­ro­neous and di­vi­sive po­si­tions they ad­vanced. On the one hand, there were those in the ranks of the labour move­ment and the broader so­cial­ist axis who found com­fort in a “pure” na­tional strug­gle, who stripped it of its pro­gres­sive class con­tent and will­ingly sought to post­pone the class strug­gle. On the other hand, there were those who be­lieved that any as­so­ci­a­tion with the ANC – a na­tion­al­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion in their char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion – rep­re­sented the post­pone­ment of the class strug­gle.

The pos­ture of Cosatu’s former pres­i­dent, Wil­lie Madisha, is one ex­am­ple of those who found com­fort in a “pu­ri­fied” na­tional strug­gle and work­ers pun­ished him for that. An ex­am­ple of the other er­ro­neous po­si­tion – be­liev­ing that the as­so­ci­a­tion of Cosatu and the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) with the ANC amounts to the post­pone­ment of the class strug­gle – may be rep­re­sented by Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of SA (Numsa) leader Irvin Jim, among oth­ers.

In the cur­rent pe­riod, the im­me­di­ate strug­gle is the strug­gle against cor­rup­tion, the ne­olib­eral re­struc­tur­ing of South Africa’s work­places, and cor­po­rate cap­ture by the smash-and-grab, par­a­sitic, bour­geois ten­dency.

This ten­dency is bent on loot­ing state re­sources and the use of state ma­chin­ery to ad­vance petty po­lit­i­cal and fac­tional bat­tles. The lead­ing per­son­al­i­ties in this ten­dency in­clude Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his cor­rupt clique from some prov­inces and among the lead­er­ship of the ANC’s leagues.

It is dumb­found­ing that, for the first time in the his­tory of our NDR, to have Cosatu put its tail be­tween its legs and lean against the wall, as class con­tra­dic­tions are sharp­en­ing. This new op­por­tunis­tic stance of our fed­er­a­tion – or of its lead­er­ship – has been con­firmed by its si­lence in the state cap­ture de­bate and the de­vel­op­ments at the SABC and Eskom, among other things.

Like a cow­ard on the bat­tle­field, the Cosatu lead­er­ship has cho­sen to re­gard the cor­po­rate cap­ture of our state as mere po­lit­i­cal squab­bles. Yet, since when did Cosatu not have a po­si­tion on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters? The Cosatu lead­er­ship must know that the bat­tles against cor­po­rate cap­ture of the state are es­sen­tially and cen­trally a class strug­gle.

In this vein, SACP gen­eral sec­re­tary Blade Nz­i­mande cau­tioned Cosatu that “no one is bet­ter po­si­tioned to stop state cap­ture than the trade unions. The big­gest loser, if we al­low our state to be stolen, will be the work­ing class.”

Al­low me to give one glar­ing piece of ev­i­dence of Cosatu’s lead­er­ship fail­ure: one of Cosatu’s af­fil­i­ates ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment on the res­ig­na­tion of Brian Molefe and praised his lead­er­ship as CEO of Eskom be­cause of how he sta­bilised the en­ergy util­ity, while ig­nor­ing the fact that one as­pect of the cap­ture of Eskom was to serve the in­ter­est of pri­vate busi­ness – in the form of the Gup­tas. This led to ex­ten­sive re­trench­ments in the coal sec­tor in Mpumalanga.

This pos­ture is a se­ri­ous con­tra­dic­tion of the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers’ 2015 na­tional congress and the re­cent cen­tral com­mit­tee, where Eskom was unan­i­mously voted by del­e­gates as the worst em­ployer. Is Cosatu too blind to see this re­al­ity? For­tu­nately, in con­trast with the union’s ap­par­ent ser­vil­ity, the rank-and-file work­ers of the coun­try have said that Molefe’s de­par­ture was “good rid­dance”.

Cosatu’s new and sud­denly in­vented out­look that the sharp­en­ing class con­tra­dic­tions are merely po­lit­i­cal – as well as the fact that the fed­er­a­tion does not en­ter into the fray smacks of po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism – is a clear man­i­fes­ta­tion of the ex­tent of busi­ness union­ism em­bed­ding it­self in the worker’s or­gan­i­sa­tions. I am not apolo­getic about my belief that the strug­gle against cor­po­rate cap­ture is a class strug­gle. I am call­ing on Cosatu to hold hands with the van­guard party – the SACP.

The unity of the so­cial­ist axis be­tween the two en­ti­ties can­not be based on per­sonal likes and dis­likes. Those whose com­mit­ment to the class strug­gle is in­formed by lit­tle more than their per­sonal moods must be ex­posed and iso­lated.

As for the SACP, it must again learn that the coop­tion of trade union lead­ers to the party’s se­nior lead­er­ship po­si­tions – merely be­cause of their strate­gic lo­ca­tion in the trade unions – does not of it­self and alone ad­vance the strug­gle.

It does not work be­cause – as we have seen – the con­duct and pos­ture of trade union lead­ers with­out the nec­es­sary rev­o­lu­tion­ary class con­scious­ness con­firms Rosa Luxemburg’s view that trade unions are by nature re­formist.

We must not make the er­ror of as­sum­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary and com­mit­ted con­tri­bu­tion to the class strug­gle from any trade union­ist who has not demon­strated in ad­di­tion his or her class-con­scious com­mit­ment.

Ngqentsu is the sec­re­tary of the SACP in the Brian Bunting dis­trict and a Western Cape Na­tional Union of

Minework­ers re­gional of­fi­cial

Blade Nz­i­mande

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.