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South Africa: campaigning for a working class party
Workers And Socialist Party reporters, Johannesburg
On 16-17 April Numsa, South Africa's metalworkers union, the largest union on the African continent, will be convening a 'conference for socialism'. This will discuss the options available for a working class political alternative to the openly corrupt, big business ANC government.
The neoliberal policies of the ANC are devastating the lives of Numsa members, the working class and the millions of black workers impoverished and destitute in the townships. So Numsa took the historic decision at its special national congress in December 2013 to withdraw financial and political support from the ANC.
Alongside this decision delegates agreed to establish a united front to link up the struggles of the trade unions and the communities and a movement for socialism to investigate the establishment of a new workers party.
Numsa has created a task force to oversee this process. Alec Thraves from the Socialist Party of England and Wales was invited along with a Workers and Socialist Party (WASP - set up to stand candidates against the ANC) delegation to address this task force at Numsa's national office in Johannesburg.
Alec opened the meeting by acknowledging the fighting militant traditions of Numsa and praising their courageous decision in breaking from the ANC which no longer represents the interests of the working class. Similarly in Britain he added, Socialist Party members in his own union Unite, are campaigning for a break with the Labour Party which also no longer represents working class people.
Whereas Numsa has withdrawn its members money from the pro-capitalist ANC, Unite had recently donated R28 million (£1.5 million) to Labour's general election fund despite the fact that the Labour leadership is committed to continuing the Conservative-led government's austerity policies if they get elected!
Alec explained how the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (see pages 14 and 15) would be challenging Labour with an anti-cuts programme in around 120 parliamentary seats across the UK, preparing the ground for the future development of a new mass workers party.
He also highlighted the success of Socialist Alternative, co-thinkers of the CWI in the US, with the election of Kshama Sawant and the impact of the $15 an hour campaign. Also in Ireland where the CWI has three MPs who are performing as genuine workers representatives leading the water tax non-payment campaign.
After a constructive discussion, comrade Banda, political advisor to Irvin Jim, general secretary of Numsa, thanked Alec for his contribution and invited the WASP delegation to continue their political exchanges with Numsa over the coming months.
WASP will be sending an official delegation to the conference for socialism to express our belief that the creation of a new mass workers party with a socialist programme is an urgent priority for the South African working class.