South Africa’s largest trade union, the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), has recently called on the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to break with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). The 340,000-member-strong trade union, which was formerly a large base for grassroots ANC mobilization, funding, and votes, has instead withheld dues from COSATU and ANC and began progenitor efforts to build a new country-wide ‘red’ trade union confederation and revolutionary party. The left-ward shift by NUMSA, which began during NUMSA’s last congress this past December, is part of a larger trend on the part of people’s movements and opens the possibility advancing the struggle against-capitalist imperialism.
As part of the movement away from reformist politics, NUMSA’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, has taken a more Lenin-esque tone in regards to the current state of affairs in South Africa:
“[The] Marikana [massacre in which 34 striking miners were shot to death on August 16th, 2012] has proved once more that in a capitalist mode of production the state will always protect and act in the interests of the dominant, capitalist class in society.
The bottom line is that the role of the state under capitalism is to guarantee the conditions for capitalists to make profit. Without profit there is no capitalism.
The tragic crime of Marikana has shown us how far this protection goes. The forces of the state are capable even of murdering workers if we show signs of revolting against our historical chains of colonialism of a special type, if we are willing to say no to modern slavery.”
Not surprisingly, the treacherous South African ‘Communist’ Party (SACP), which describes itself as a partner in a tripartite alliance with the ANC and COSATU, has been the front line defender of the ANC and its mediation of imperialist exploitation. In a recent press statement, the SACP urged NUMSA members to vote for the ANC in the upcoming election. A more recent open letter from an SACP official decried the confusion sown in the working class by NUMSA’s left-ward shift. Jim openly responded that it is the SACP which confuses workers into supporting a neo-liberal government while sidelining any substantive struggle for socialism.
At this point, some readers may be asking how union struggles in South Africa relate to ecology.
Simply put, the mode of production in which profit takes center stage, capitalism, is the chief cause of environmental destruction today. Moreover, despite the lofty dreams and rhetoric of the dignified ‘Marxist’ leadership of the SACP, capitalism will not be overthrown by supporting its institutions of rule, namely the comprador state. Finally, the proletariat and its allies need their own independent institutions to combat and eventually defeat capitalism’s rule.
Recent events involving NUMSA’s left-ward split from the comprador ANC/COSATU/SACP tripartite are positive. They may open the door for the kinds of independent organizations and institutions needed if capitalism is going to be seriously challenged and defeated in South Africa. Moreover, they are indicative of a wider split in global society and an increasing tension between imperialist-led and proletariat-oriented forces. In this sense, the moves by NUMSA represent a model for other organized forces beginning to be woken up from decades of post-Cold War slumber.
RevolutionaryEcology.com extends a hearty message of solidarity with the comrades of NUMSA, their struggle to break with revisionist and comprador forces in South Africa, and all efforts to ‘unite all who can be united’ to build the movement for revolutionary socialism.