Opinionista Irvin Jim 22 December 2015

A small and insignificant march – a false step for the working class!

It is not by accident that the black and African working class largely boycotted these marches, which the organisers and their largely white middle class choir simply put down to their lack of education and ignorance but a conscious political understanding.

In our December 2013 Special National Congress, Numsa formally called for the resignation of Zuma, as President of South Africa. This is what we said: “The congress called on President Jacob Zuma to resign with immediate effect because of his administration’s pursuit of neo-liberal policies such as the NDP, e-tolls, labour brokers, youth wage subsidy, and the track record of his administration which is steeped in corruption, patronage and nepotism.” 

Some of our friends, in their haste to cause us to participate in their struggles, have no qualms in falsifying our positions!

“Regrettably”, writes Mark Heywood in the Daily Maverick on 19 December, “the left side of the spectrum NUMSA, probably ill-advised by some of its dying-hard ‘Marxists’, had decided that even if Zuma could be made to fall, that wouldn’t amount to the overthrow of capitalism. And thus the movement was not deemed worthy of their involvement. So NUMSA’s members and leadership were largely absent.”

In this piece there is absolutely no argument why NUMSA should have participated in a march organised by, for, and together with, all the wrong right-wing liberals and for a right-wing cause – the appointment of a finance minister capable of protecting the financial and property interests of our class enemies!

Heywood clearly thinks the working class have no clue why capital rose up against Zuma! In fact they understand our arguments perfectly well. As NUMSA said in its statement: “The Treasury and successive Finance Ministers, including Pravin Gordhan, have played a central role in enforcing neo-liberal fiscal and monetary policies. They have used their control of government purse strings to strangle reforms such as a National Health Insurance and Comprehensive Social Security, even though these are supposed to be ANC Conference policies.

Yet these #ZumaMustFall (ZMF) guys insist that “National Treasury must be independent”. Independent from whom? Zuma obviously wanted to intervene to install someone in the Treasury who would protect the allegedly corrupt activities of himself and his cronies, which NUMSA has consistently condemned.

But to argue that an elected government, as a matter of principle, should not instruct an ‘independent’ Treasury to implement policies adopted at ANC conferences and voted for at elections, or to remove ministers who are pursuing contrary policies is absolutely scandalous.

So it is not by accident that the black and African working class largely boycotted these marches, which the organisers and their largely white middle class choir simply put down to their lack of education and ignorance but a conscious political understanding. It is these well-fed and well-housed pampered and spoilt white and black middle classes who are ignorant and politically extremely uneducated! 

Hats off to the NUMSA Deputy General Secretary (What does the working class stand to gain from the #ZumaMustFall campaign? Daily Maverick, 15 December) for telling these characters what NUMSA’s perspectives are! As the we said in our statement:

What does the working class stand to gain from the ZMF campaign? Would Zuma’s removal necessarily bring about the resolution of deepening levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality and corruption? Demanding that Zuma must fall without adding that neoliberal monopoly capitalism must fall, and that the Freedom Charter and socialism must rise is just class suicide, with nothing that the working class can gain at the moment.”

NUMSA opposes those in the ZMF campaign like Heywood who see the solution purely in terms of replacing one pro-capitalist leader with another more ‘honest’ bourgeois leaders, even though they will exploit workers just as ruthlessly.

The same argument applies to his Unite Against Corruption Campaign. While of course we have to relentlessly expose the corruption, cronyism and incompetence of Zuma and the government and ANC leadership, we must never forget that corruption arises not just as a result of individuals’ criminality and greed but that it is a structural component of the fundamentally corrupt, monopoly capitalist system.

So long as we have a system driven purely by the need to accumulate as much profit from the exploitation of workers, which they can do legally, there will always be those in both the private and public sectors who will further exploit the system to enrich themselves illegally.

It is utterly false to argue that workers’ organisations must support any popular movement regardless of its false programme, as a way of mobilizing and building the momentum of a movement of opposition. On the contrary leading workers and the middle class up the hill and down again, in campaigns that change nothing, is the surest way of demobilising them.

The heart of what is wrong with Heywood’s argument is his casual jibe that NUMSA opposed ZMF only because “even if Zuma could be made to fall, that wouldn’t amount to the overthrow of capitalism”, as if this was just a side issue, when in fact it is at the crux of the matter.

Solutions’ like Heywood’s, which would leave white monopoly capitalism intact will leave the working class enslaved and exploited, regardless of who runs the Treasury, or even the Presidency.

As the union’s statement concluded: “Replacing leaders, or tinkering with the system, is not the answer… We cannot subscribe to the tactical call for Zuma to fall without any strategic consideration of what is the alternative for the rural poor, the unemployed, workers and the broader working class.

The only real alternative to the current mess was adopted by NUMSA’s Special National Congress in 2013, which resolved to build new platforms of working class organisation to build working class power so that the working class acts as a class for itself, based on a programme for the fundamental, socialist transformation of the economy and society.” DM

Jim is General Secretary of Numsa.

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