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A new political movement of working class formations (broadly speaking) is preparing to launch within weeks, starting with a proposed nationwide Mass Working Class Assembly.
The movement, which will be named after the Assembly, seeks to draw in all working class formations, including women, students, workers, LGBTQIA+ activists, progressive academics, and other interested individuals and groups, both nationwide and throughout Southern Africa.
It will be entirely worker-driven and led, shunning "Personality Politics" and conventional political vehicles and platforms.
Formed on 22 January 2023 by a group of committed activists, that meeting agreed to create and develop a political vehicle and strategy "to intervene in the social and political crises gripping the country’s social system that has accelerated since the1994 institution of a neo-colonial, neoliberal, bourgeois political settlement led by the African National Congress," says a document drawn up for wide distribution by the Organising Committee (OC) of the Assembly.
The document, released on Monday13 March after it's approval by the OC, suggests a way forward that aligns with an assessment of the current political moment and in the context of the condition of the working classes and the general population.
It also seeks further discussions to solidify the identity of the movement and, finally, to set a programme of objectives and tasks before the General Election in 2024.
"It is today commonplace, at least within the left, to conclude and to judge the moment the country reels in as a moment of social and political crises; that we have firmly entered the threshold of a new era in the socio-economic and political landscape," the document says.
"(W)e note that South Africa is in a state of emergency. That, rising unemployment, corruption, and the malaise in the ruling party has now acquired a generalised form that defines the daily experience of the broader population.
"(T)he field of economy is replete with failures of the neoliberal theory of growth, corporate investment strikes, spiralling sovereign and household debt, illicit movement of money out of the country, and a general hollowing out of the resources of the country," it says.
The OC asks the question: "But are these mere intermittent democratic relapses; the unfortunate but temporal condition of a democracy that has been reduced to mere formalistic skeleton, or (do) they mark the beginnings of a permanent and spiralling collapse of the neo-colonial bourgeois democratic edifice of 1994?"
The document lists the energy crisis and blackouts as having brought the crisis to "everyone's doorstep". Now it is time to "tap into that vein of consciousness" and to understand that this is the moment to mobilise the people.
The OC believes that because the crises the country faces are structural, and part of the capitalist system and its long global economic decline, and that the collapse is a real probability,that, the present political party system cannot reverse the country's decline.
The OC observes that South Africa will plunge further into severe crisis mode, and the working classes, currently being poorly organised as social crises have made living, production and reproduction very precarious, have to be mobilise against the neoliberal ideology permeating every sector of the national psycho-social and cultural spheres.
"(I)t is now generally considered illusory to suggest policies from outside, or beyond the neoliberal logic," the document says, adding that the working classes would be likely to only seek reforms the OC tagged as "survivalist programmes" like minimum wages, youth employment schemes, food subsidies, expanded state social grants, and the like, of reducing the long held anti- capitalist, anti,- colonial and imperialist struggle as merely a struggle for so.- called service delivery.
This would occur despite the working classes having lost trust and faith in both neoliberal "democracy" and the current government.
The "present overdrive towards austerity, the national odious debt-servicing obligations of the state, declining productive investments, a shrinking tax base, illicit capital outflows, energy-driven high prices and the Reserve Bank capital formation impeding inflation targeting – none of these minimum demands would likely be fully accepted and implemented by the ANC or any much-talked-about future coalition government," the document says.
The working classes are fragmented, using single-issue-based campaign channels and "lacking national political representation and a coordinated voice". They are preyed on by the "political expediency of the present political party electoral system (and) the politically barren and moribund parliamentary democratic system."
The working class lacks "previous experience of its own class party formation, and is reeling in desperate economic conditions" it was often influenced by trade union bureaucracies and establishment political parties, with a view to "contesting, aligning and assimilating the working classes" to their own petty bourgeois nationalist purposes and interests, for "anti-working class, neoliberal elite programs".
The OC proposes the working classes should "craft their own organisational political pole, independent of the present array of bourgeois political parties", combine energies within an organisational and political framework that allows them to flex their muscles on their own terms and to challenge them in combat struggle on the streets, and, "if so desirable, in the electoral arena".
The new movement hopes to see accumulated struggles across the country building a revolutionary mass workers' party, a process the OC will begin. But it will need to expand and recognise it cannot be the revolutionary mass workers' party in and of itself, the document reveals.
The OC's role, as currently envisaged, is to first mount a strategy for pulling together the material for a forward thrust of organised opposition, second, to create a platform for solidarity against the collapsing political order, based on strategic transitional demands and third, to build class-based combinations, in other words, a united front, basing itself on a platform of strategic transitional demands. The OC is seized with discussions to submit to the Mass Working Class Assembly proposals to synthesise around strategic transitional demands and programme, namely;
- A constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and approval by means of a referendum of all peoples of the country.
- Social ownership and direct mandating of the role of the SA Reserve Bank by the working class and society.
- Reversal of all price determination powers of the market, beginning with prices of basic livelihood sustaining necessities; food, transport, energy, water, etc.
- Regulation of investment priorities of financial institutions to support investment in the valorisation of capital; industrialisation and domestic raw materials processing.
- Abolition of the tender system and the institution of measures to accelerate internal capacity in the delivery of goods and services.
- Expansion of subsistence farming by rural households, state purchase and installation of equipment and implements to advance technical capacity of rural communities. Regulatory policy against multinational corporate monopolies and their erosion of social means for food security and development.
- Elimination of household debt alongside state sanctioned subsidisation of of housing and basic goods and services.
- Forward and backward linkages and industrial capacity for agricultural production, mining and related economic processes.
- Institution of people centred developmental measures such as on inequalities, lifespan, wealth and income disparities, cultural development, etc. All alternative to the neoliberal yardsticks of GDP, national and per capita, GNP, etc.
- Rejection of austerity and the repayment of odious sovereign IMF/WB debt, including return of odious payment of interests.
- Immediate measures to free education from outsourcing of services such as admissions.
- All SOEs to be the first entry points for national training for technical development and employment of graduates and technicians.
- All land to be restored to the rightful ownership of the people.
- Free education from kindergarten to post graduate university levels
- Just transition from below and away from the capitalist manipulations agendas from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
- A universal Basic Income Grant of R2500.00 per individual citizen in need of livelihood sustaining income.
- Enforcement of the rights of communities to reject mining and fracking activities that prioritises corporate profiteering and without the consent of communities.
The identify of the new united front should resonate with the political memory and present circumstances, the OC said, using an attractive acronym, youth-, student- and women-sensitive, easy to pronounce, and having a thrust of creativity, freshness and political weight.
The Mass Workers' Assembly would synthesise a common platform of demands from all formations, develop a clear turnaround and departure point from the current political and social policy trajectory, infuse South Africans with a sense of a new direction by providing an electoral alternative while putting forward solid content and proposals, the OC said.
Submitted by Mandla Sishi (an educationalist in political economy, and a long-standing activist in trade unions and social movements) & David Forbes (independent activist, writer, filmmaker, tour guide and photographer)