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|As a Class for Itself
by Irvin Jim
I speak to you today with a powerful and united mandate from 341,150 metalworkers.
They made their views extremely clear in our workers' parliament in December last year -- the parliament we called the Numsa Special National Congress. In that parliament there was vigorous debate. Every delegate knew that they would have to account to their constituency. We are justifiably proud of our democratic heritage.
We know that what we decide has the backing of our members. We don't have to change decisions after the Congress has spoken, as some do, even though there are those who would urge us to "come to our senses" and take Numsa in another direction from the decisions of that Congress.
And we are also justifiably proud of our militant heritage. Our union, right back from its beginning, has taken the side of the working class and the poor. We have always been a union that champions shop-floor struggles as well as the struggles of working class communities. We have always understood that workers come from communities and live in communities. Community struggles are workers' struggles.
So, as metalworkers we fight for policies and strategies that will create jobs. We want more working people from our communities to have jobs. We fight for water. We fight for houses. We fight for the safety of our communities. We fight against a police force which kills our people when they protest because they don't have water. Because they don't have houses.
We are also a union that has been in the trenches with revolutionary forces within the liberation alliance led by the ANC and SACP. Yet when we speak out clearly in defence of the working class and the poor, our allies attack us. They call us oppositionists because we reject the policies of the ANC and SACP which attack the interests of our members.
They call us ultra-leftists suffering from infantile disorders because we refuse to betray the interests of the working class and support an ANC and SACP whose leadership has consistently attacked the working class.
We are not just talking about labour brokers. We are not just talking about e-tolls. We are talking about an ANC and SACP leadership which has clearly and unequivocally taken sides with international capital against us. There is no other way to look at it. The examples stare us in the face. At Marikana, the armed forces of the state mowed down workers who were demanding a living wage from an international mining company, Lonmin. The same happened during the farmworkers' strike in the Western Cape. The same is happening now in Mothuthlung and Sebokeng and other communities across the country too numerous to count.
Our people are protesting because they have no water -- that most basic of necessities. And the State . . . that very same state which failed to supply them with water . . . kills them for their protest
Underneath all of this is a harsh material fact. The South African economy has not fundamentally changed. The structure remains the same as it was under apartheid . . . the same dependence on exporting raw minerals, the same enslavement to the Minerals Energy Finance complex.
Far from an increase in the manufacturing sector -- the sector which can really produce jobs -- we have a rapid process of deindustrialisation. We are not gaining jobs, we are losing them.
In 2004 there were 3.7 million unemployed people in our country. Last year that had risen to 4.1 million. More unemployed, not less.
This will not stop until we fundamentally change direction. We, as a union, have understood that the ANC and SACP will not lead that change. It is the ANC and SACP which gave us Gear. It is the ANC and SACP which has given us the NDP. It is the ANC and SACP which is investing in improving the rail-lines to Richards Bay so that more of our minerals can be exported.
We know that the current leadership, the very same leadership that calls itself anti-imperialist, is in a lucrative alliance with international capital. It has accepted its shares in the mining industry, but those shares were not given for nothing. They had a price, and the price is being paid by the working class and the poor of our country. The price is a macro-economic strategy which focuses on maintaining profit, not jobs. This fact cannot be changed by a fig leaf called the Employment Tax Incentive Act. A fig leaf which claims to be about creating jobs whilst actually it is yet another attack on the working class.
I want to say this very clearly and very straightforwardly. There is only one way to create the number of jobs that are needed in South Africa -- the number the NDP dreams about. That is to harness the profits of the mining and financial sectors and use them to build manufacturing industry. That is why we call for the nationalisation of the mines and the financial sector. It is not some dogma from the past. It is an immediate and urgent requirement to save our nation.
The Star newspaper last week said "A Nation Burns". That headline said more than it knew. It is the nation that is burning. It is burning because it is being ruthlessly looted by international capital.
For the investors in London and New York and Berlin, South Africa is just another possible investment destination. They don't care about the working class and the poor of South Africa and we don't expect them to. But now our political leadership has aligned itself with the global looters. Our political leadership is no longer able to represent the nation because it has a conflict of interest. Its real, material interest in the profitability of the mining and financial sectors prevents it from looking after the interests of the nation. The interest of building our manufacturing industry. The leadership's interest in the profits of global capital prevents them from being the leadership that the nation needs -- the leadership that Hugo Chavez represented in Venezuela, for example, or that Evo Morales has represented in Bolivia.
So, what is the state of the nation when it comes to policy and direction?
Flowing from their class interest, the ANC and SACP have presided over a series of policies that have consistently failed the working class and the poor of South Africa. I can give you a few examples:
And what is the state of the nation for the majority of its people -- the working class and the poor?
Now let's look at who owns the nation. That must be part of any assessment of the state of the nation.
So the productive and wealth-producing forces of our nation are increasingly owned by global capital, not by South African capital. As a nation, we are increasingly required to dance to the music of global capital. That music plays a very sad tune for the working class and the poor of our nation.
So, what have ANC manifestos done for the nation?
I could go on, with more examples. But the message is already clear. There is very little correlation between ANC election manifestos and reality.
So, what is Numsa's response to the state of our nation?
It was against this background that Numsa's Special National Congress debated and passed its ground-breaking resolutions.
Instead we demand the fundamental restructuring of the economy to create jobs through building manufacturing industry. When it comes to the young people of South Africa, we demand from the government:
And we demand from employers:
We are calling for the working class and the poor of South Africa to demonstrate in their numbers on February 26th that we have had enough. The nation must be protected from those who are destroying it. February 26th is the beginning of our rolling mass action throughout 2014. We are starting to build the irresistible force that will take back our nation and build it in the interests of the majority.
Irvin Jim is General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. For more information: <www.numsa.org.za>.