Major Split in African National Congress: South African Unions Announce New Struggle for Socialism

(By Liberation News)

Since 1994, South Africa has been governed by the African National Congress, which has maintained its “Tripartite Alliance” with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

At the end of December 2013, shortly after Nelson Mandela’s passing, this alliance experienced its most significant split in 20 years. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa unanimously passed in a Special Congress a resolution to stop supporting the ruling African National Congress in the 2014 elections. Instead, the union would explore the creation of a mass revolutionary socialist workers party, and has called for the large and powerful national labor federation, COSATU, to follow suit and assert its independence from the ruling ANC.

The metalworkers’ union — which goes by the acronym NUMSA — is not the first group to break its alliance with the ANC in the name of advancing working-class interests. The social movement-oriented Democratic Left Front was formed in 2011. The Workers and Socialist Party, which grew in the wake of the police massacre of striking miners at Marikana, was formed in 2012. The populist Economic Freedom Fighters, led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was formed in 2013. Other breakaway unions and social movement organizations have split from the ANC-led Alliance in recent years.

What makes the NUMSA split so significant is that the union is the largest in the country — representing 338,000 workers — with a long and militant history. It has long been led by avowed communists. Continue reading

Some Points on the Mass Line

(By Freedom Road Socialist Organization) 

The PDF of this pamphlet for printing, folding, and distribution can be downloaded here 

This study was prepared by a leading member of FRSO in the late 1980s. Since then this study has been used extensively inside and outside our organization and it has been reprinted in a number of different political settings. The application of the mass line is basic to how we do our work in trade unions, in the movements of oppressed nationalities, in anti-war and other progressive struggles. It informs our work on building a new communist party.  

Introduction

1) The mass line is the basic political/organization method of communists. Although the term mass line was coined by the Communist Party of China, the basic method of reliance on, and the mobilization of, the masses of people has been utilized by all successful revolutionary parties.

As a topic, discussion of the mass line encompasses aspects of many things, including philosophy (the relationship between theory and practice, between knowing and doing), Marxist-Leninist strategy and tactics (united front work, correct methods of leadership), and organizational theory (party building – the construction of revolutionary organization).

2) Our starting point is this: “The people, and the people alone are the motive force in making world history.” (Mao Zedong) Not only is this historically true, but for us communists it hits on the basic issue of on whom do we rely and how to get stuff done. Perhaps it is self-evident that without people, very little can be accomplished, but this has been the subject of more than a little debate among revolutionaries in the past.

Q: Have you seen, or can you think of examples of left/progressive forces that have failed to rely on the people? What has been the result?

The Need To Understand How Society Develops Continue reading

Mrs. Thatcher’s Demise: Two Classes, Two Attitudes

(Published in Lalkar)

On Monday, 8 April 2013, Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Britain for more than eleven years (4 May 1979 to 27 November 1990), died of a stroke at the Ritz Hotel, which had been her home for a few months prior to her demise. She was eighty seven.

Why the ruling class honours Thatcher

Writing in the Financial Times of 9 April, 2013, Jonathan Guthrie, summed up Mrs Thatcher’s services to British finance capital in the following words: “… there is no individual to whom British business and the City of London owes a greater debt of gratitude” than to her, adding that she “…privatised 40 businesses employing 600,000 people, readied the City for European dominance in financial services and emasculated the trade union …. the ‘Big Bang’ city reforms of 1986 ” resulted in “… an influx of capital and talent from North America and Japan“, ensuring London’s pre-eminence as a financial sector, which accounts for over ten per cent of the British economy. Mr Guthrie goes on to say that in the 1980s, the “high summer of sell-offs“, businesses worth £16bn were “spun off by be-mulleted City boys” (‘Mrs T’s vim proved by the irreversibility of her reforms’)

As during her lifetime, so after her death, the British ruling class has returned the complement by recalling parliament on 10 April at a cost of £2 million and giving her a state funeral on the sly at a cost of £10 million to the taxpayer. Members of Parliament were offered the bribe of £3,750 each to fly back from their holiday to be in time for the special session of Parliament convened for paying tribute to Mrs Thatcher, when it could have been done free of any expenditure the following Monday (15 April); and this at a time of austerity and plummeting living standards for the working people, many of whom are told to subsist on £53 a week.

Repulsive though are our MPs, 150 of them, be it said to their credit, spurned the bribe and stayed away from what was sure, and actually did turn out, to be a session of nauseating politeness and competitive fawning.

During this seven-and-a-half marathon, the leaders of the three main bourgeois parties – Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour – as well as dozens of MPs tripped over each other in showering praises on Mrs T. “She made our country great again“, and ” I believe she will go down as the greatest peace-time prime minister“, said Prime Minister David Cameron. His deputy and Coalition partner, Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg, stated that Mrs Thatcher “drew lines on a political map that we are still navigating today“. Continue reading

The Trade Unions & Actually Existing Socialism: A Point of Comparison for the American Worker

(By Return to the Source)

In 1934, the [Soviet Union] government abolished the existing national department of labor and turned its functions over to the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, it being taken for granted in a socialist regime that no group in the country is more competent or trustworthy to administer the nation’s labor laws than those persons most directly concerned, the workers themselves.

But imagine what a wild outcry such a proposal in the United States would wring from the reactionaries. The Soviet trade unions, in protecting the rights and welfare of the workers in the industries, have the power to issue regulations having the binding force of law, and for whose infraction careless or bureaucratic factory managers may be punished. To supervise the country’s great labor protective service the trade union movement has its own system of factory inspectors. Each factory council has a commission to attend to problems of local enforcement in the plant, mine, office, or railroad.

This is a concept utterly unthinkable in any capitalist system.

– William Z. Foster, American Trade Unionism, pg. 331

This essay is an expansion of a chapter in a recent post, Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam. The chapter, “Trade Unions & Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam,” was one of the most discussed parts of the essay by readers of Return to the Source. Although the chapter began to address the fundamental distinction between trade unions in socialist countries versus capitalist countries, the essay’s particular focus on Vietnam limited the scope of discussion. Thus, it is our hope to expand on many of the points made in the chapter. Fragments of this chapter appear in this piece uncited.

In the United States, organized labor is under outright assault from the imperialist class. Devastated by so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation and no-strike clauses written into contracts by management and conservative union leaders alike, state and local governments across the US have sought to deal trade unions a finishing blow.

The onslaught of anti-union governors provoked a strong, militant upsurge in union activism, from Wisconsin to Ohio to Florida. Many of these measures were defeated using a variety of tactics: In Wisconsin, it took a state Supreme Court ruling to overturn the worst provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s law stripping public workers of the right to collectively bargain. In Ohio, the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, and other unions spent a staggering $24 million to successfully defeat Governor John Kasich’s Issue 2, which similarly attacked the collective bargaining rights of public workers. In Florida, the unions defeated some of Governor Rick Scott’s attacks on organized labor through direct lobbying a tentative coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature.

For all of the success stories, however, there are also revealing defeats that demonstrate the limits and failures of the reformist tactics embraced by most national and state trade union leaders. In Wisconsin, of course, the trade unions suffered a devastating blow when they lost the Scott Walker recall campaign, having spent $10.6 million on the effort. In Florida, the state Supreme Court upheld Governor Rick Scott’s wage-cut for state employees in a 5-4 decision that was tipped in the Governor’s favor by a justice that the unions endorsed in the 2012 general election!

These defeats have something in common, namely the reliance on purely reformist tactics by union leadership instead of resorting to more militant actions, particularly the strike. Criticizing this conservative trend in the trade unions in the US, however, is not the purpose of this piece. For the most up-to-date look at the American trade union movement, its flaws, and its potential for recovery, Return to the Source wholeheartedly recommends reading Joe Burns’ book, Reviving the Strike.

Instead, we briefly remind readers of the attacks and defeats suffered by American trade unions to make a point that should be obvious: Workers do not have even a semblance of ‘democracy’ or political power in a capitalist country. Relying on the democratic institutions in a capitalist country to affect change for workers proves fruitless time and time again, especially as conservative trade union leaders ‘bargain’ away the last vestiges of class-self-defense that workers have in the United States. Strikes, as Burns’ book points out, are the most effective weapon that workers have in capitalist relations of production, and abandoning that weapon in lieu of the ballot box is a poor trade, indeed. The proof, as it is said, is in the pudding. Continue reading

Target Unionization Drive Opens Up a Realm of Possibilities

This original article by Toilers’ Struggle’s author is being republished as part of the reorganization process. 

Despite the setback in Madison, the working class has remained resilient in its fight to defend its organizations. Even Target, one of the largest retail corporations in America, has been besieged recently by frustrated workers clamoring for the right to join a union.

In Valley Stream, New York, 260 Target employees fought to join the largest retail union in the nation, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), claiming that Target was illegally “intimidating” them. Such measures included the threat of dismissal to those who discussed unionization and the banning of any pro-union buttons.

Accusative fingers have been pointed back and forth between Target and the union – Target claiming that the unionization movement was merely an attempt by a fired employee to “get back” at Target, while the union claimed that dozens of workers themselves pushed for an election. Continue reading