Written by Wilson H. da Silva and Rafael Ávila
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 21:34
On September 23 it was held the first session of the School “Globalization 2013”, promoted by the International Labor Research and Information Group (ILRIG), a 30 years old organization in South Africa, in which the CSP-Conlutas and Quilombo Race and Class (Blacks movement affiliated to CSP-Conlutas) made their first introduction.
The session was opened by Andrew Nash, one of the coordinators of the ILRIG who outlined the main points of the course, emphasizing that the focus of the discussion would be the Marikana Massacre, which occurred last year. A choice that isn’t limited to the indignation arisen out of this crime perpetrated by the police forces in the country led by the African National Congress (ANC).
The massacre was a “turning point” in relation to the organization and role of social movements in South Africa. The event put on a higher level the organization of trade unions, popular movements and anti-oppression movements.
Something that became clear in the speeches of both lecturers and in the interventions of around 150 brothers and sisters attending the session in Cape Town.
A new level of organization
The day began with Andrew Nash’s speech, one of the ILRIG coordinators. The Marikana impact on the social movements was evident in one of Nash’s first sentences: “Marikana was not an isolated case. We could say that there is a Marikana on a global scale, which is expressed in the neoliberal austerity plans, that has been sweeping the whole world”.
With particular reference to South Africa the ILRIG representative has also been emphatic in a sentence full of irony: “Did the ANC know what they were doing in Marikana? Possibly they did not. Mainly because they were very busy with so many other things: capitalist big businesses. Rather than concerned about the miners plight, they were more engaged in preserving the ‘law and order’ of capitalism. And Marikana has placed them in a position from which there is no turning back”.
Then Nash also reminded that the ANC is not alone in the episode: “Zuma [South African President] had a decisive support of the National Congress of South African Trade Unions, Cosatu, which requires us to say that is high time for usto find a new road to a new kind of organizing the movements”. Many spontaneous outbursts of “Outside Zuma”, followed by chants and dances – one ofthe most beautiful ways of expression of the South African people – eventually interrupted his speech.
Leonard Gentle, another ILRIG representative, continued with the same pitch: “The adoption by the government (to which the local Communist Party is also part) of neoliberal policies such as the casualization, outsourcing, the privatizations etc., caused enormous changes in the world of labor andin the working class status, which practically forces us to restructure the workers movement.”
Speaking briefly about the history of neoliberalism, Leonard also summarized its effects on South Africa: “The ANC’s adoption of the neoliberal prescriptions resulted in unemployment [which already reaches 40%], in flexible contracts and outsourcing, in the feminization of labor (with the aim of lowering wages), lack of access to essential services and to decent housing as well as privatization.”
A situation that is backed by the Cosatu in deeds, regardless of what they say, and practically “forces the movement to seek new organizational forms” not coincidentally the title given to this year school.
The driving force behind the reorganization: “The ANC and Cosatu do not represent us”
The next lecturer was John Appolis, from GIWUSA, an entity that is itself an example of the reorganization process in that it supports the political independence of the social movements and organizes several sectors of the working class, such as civil construction, chemicals, and transport workers.
Apollis challenged the audience: “To what extent does Marikana mean that it is necessary to build a new mass movement?” To which he responded: “Marikana is the evidencethat the ANC did nothing but continuing the capitalist project: providing black and cheap manpower to be exploited by large companies.”
Defending a thesis that would have been unthinkable nine years ago, when the ANC main leader was elected president, Appolis added: “It was not Mandela who defeated apartheid, but rather the masses in constant struggle and these fighters are the same who, today, must find out new ways of organizing in order to overcome neoliberalism and its agents among us”.
A “new way” that the GIWUSA representative summarized in some measures that should be taken by those who struggle: “the formation of organizationshaving the mass movement support, that their privileged method of operation is toward the direct action, as well as that their leaders are not co-opted by the government and its agents.”
According to Apollis this can be achieved because “the masses have not stopped fighting. Since 2000 the struggles has been growing, with hundreds of demonstrations taking the workers to realize who their real enemies are and who their allies are. The ANC is no longer the party of all workers and due to its neoliberal character, today there are siteswhere the party simply cannot enter, which means that the ANC is experiencing a political crisis.”
A crisis which, by the way, has given birth to a somewhat bizarre situation for the next election: there is nothing less than 180 registered parties, something that happens, according to Appolis, due to disbelief regarding the Zuma and Mandela’s party, supported by Cosatu and the CP: “The ANC has any longer moral conditions to ask for patience to workers. Marikana made it more than evident”.
Continuing his analysis on the current scenario, the union leader was also categorical regarding the official Unions Federation, especially after the massacre: “The Cosatu has lost respect from the masses”. Something that combines with another factor that pushes the movement tothe reorganization: “The bourgeoisie also starts to distrust the ANC ability to curb the masses, which increasingly drives the ANC to take measures against the workers interests”.
Finally, the GIWUSA representative defended the need to unify the movement in new forms of organization, independent from the government and facing the trade union bureaucracy. He finished with a statement of the highest significance: “The ANC and Cosatu have used all the credit they had [before the masses] in the struggle against the apartheid. Now they are bankrupt”.
A conclusion followedby most of the participants, who chanted: “ANC and Cosatu do not represent us.”
The CSP-Conlutas and Quilombo Race and Class contribution
After Carin Ruciman’s speech, who addressed the topic “The revolt of the poor”, with the emphasis on violence against the social movement, it was the turn of the CSP-Conlutas and QuilomboRace and Class.
Taking advantage of a sentence by Andrew Nash, the Quilombo Race and Class representative began his contribution with the poem Black People by the Brazilian Solano Trindade, which seemed quite suitable for the moment:
“Blacks that enslave / and sell blacks in Africa / are not my brothers / black lords in America / to the service of Capital / are not my brothers / blacks who are oppressors / anywhere in the world / are not my brothers / Only blacks oppressed / enslaved / in the struggle for freedom / are my brothers / For them I have a poem as large as the Nile”.
Then, we presented the history of CSP-Conlutas, highlighting several similar political elements between Brazil and South Africa, starting with the adherence of the PT (Workers’ Party) and the CUT, the major Brazilian Trades Union Federation, to the neoliberal order.
Reminding that it is impossible not to make comparisons between the situations in both countries, which doesn’t mean the existence of reorganization “models”, the speech was focused on the structure and functioning of our Unions Federation.
In this regard, several elements have been stressed: the number of delegates attending the First Congress and the entities present; our principles, such as the privilege given to direct action; the combination of the struggle for the immediate needs of the class and the socialist strategy; our autonomy and political and financial independence from the employers and governments; the fighting for the unity of the movement, for the rank and file organization, the centrality of the working class in our structure and the internationalism.
We also presented the structure and functioning of the entity and how our leadership works. We underlined that the CSP-Conlutas is not just a Trades Union Federation, but also organizes social movements, as the homeless and the youth, and the oppressed sectors – blacks, women and LGBT – as well as the rank and file of working class sectors affiliated to others Unions federations.
For such, we presented briefly what is the Quilombo Race and Class and about the 1st National Meeting of the Women in Struggle Movement, not to mention we’re proud of having a LGBT Sector and a students’ association, the ANEL, affiliated to our federation. Some of the main homeless organizations in the country are part of it, too, as exemplified by the Pinheirinho struggle and by the ‘Esperança land Occupation’in Osasco-SP.
Considering the number ofcomrades, brothers and sisters, who have been in touch with us to talk and the countless times that the CSP-Conlutas has been cited in discussions, it is possible to say that, besides the fact that we will take important lessons back to Brazil, we are also leaving in South Africa a bit of our experience. This is an undeniable example of the importance of the internationalism for the construction of a new leadership for the workersand social movements.
Amandla Awhathu, CSP-Conlutas – “All the power to the people”, a slogan that we shouted at every moment with joy and excitement, beside our comrades; African brothers and sisters.