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South Africa: Democratic Socialist Movement conference
Hardening solid gold
About 60 delegates and visitors from across South Africa's platinum and gold mines, townships and villages, gathered on 9-11 February in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, for the Democratic Socialist Movement's (DSM) national conference.
The DSM is the South African section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated.
At the end of a weekend of discussing the lessons of last year's Marikana massacre and the strike wave that followed; inspiring reports of the DSM's interventions in struggles throughout the country; and the details of how to move forward in building the DSM as a revolutionary party, all members are taking back to their branches a steely determination to build the organisation into a true force this year.
The crisis of world capitalism is reflected in the most brutal of ways in South Africa (SA). The opening discussion on world perspectives, introduced by comrade Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the DSM's sister organisation in England and Wales, the Socialist Party, was an enormous inspiration to the comrades gathered.
The discussion on South African perspectives reflected an organisation thoroughly rooted in struggle, in particular in workers' struggle.
The conference heard reports from the various strike committee members and mineworkers who attended as delegates and visitors.
The discussion had to both reflect on the lessons of the past seven months of struggle and consider the looming new clashes in the mining industry.
The farm workers' struggle - which recently won a 52% increase in the still pitiful sectoral minimum wage - and student and community struggles featured in a wide-ranging discussion, which also noted the ruling African National Congress's (ANC) detachment from a reality that is looking more and more grim on both the economic and social fronts.
The role of a revolutionary party and how we go about building it in SA in the next weeks and months were key to the discussions.
Alec Thraves, from the Socialist Party introduced an important session on building the revolutionary party.
The conference adopted a target of reaching 300 paid-up members by September.
The delegates unanimously affirmed the DSM's and mineworkers' committees' initiative to build the new Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) as a broad socialist party in response to the lack of a working class' political voice which was apparent in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre.
The members who attended the conference are now back in their areas, spearheading the preparations for WASP.
The many messages of support from CWI sections across the world were an enormous inspiration to the conference.
The support by the CWI internationally to the SA section reinforced the sense of responsibility and sacrifice that must guide all members in the period ahead.
The conference was in many ways a re-birth of the CWI in South Africa. Based on the new and old members gathered over the weekend.
We are confident that the DSM will be able to catch up with history - by continuing to grow its small forces into a true revolutionary party that can constitute the backbone of the beginnings of the WASP as well as the workers' committees which have to be strengthened to take on the offensive the mine bosses and the ruling class are preparing.
Striking workers meeting hears speeches from visiting CWI members
Sean Figg, Johannesburg
Hundreds of striking municipal workers meeting in a Pretoria park loudly cheered, sang and toyi-toyied after hearing speeches from visiting CWI members Peter Taaffe and Alec Thraves.
The strikers waved CWI flags and constantly interrupted the speakers with repeated applause after offers of international solidarity were given, alongside an explanation of the capitalist crisis and its impact in Britain and across Europe.
Peter's vision of a socialist South Africa and the role of DSM in initiating the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) was enthusiastically welcomed.
After the speeches the strikers surrounded Peter and Alec, toyi-toying, shaking their hands and shouting "Viva DSM, Viva CWI".
They then marched out of the park, through the city streets to protest at their dismissals at the council offices.
The following day several hundred Harmony Gold mineworkers, who have been locked out of their shaft since December held a mass meeting to hear a report back from negotiations between their new union Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the company.
Before the report back Alec was invited to bring solidarity greetings from DSM/CWI. He explained that CWI sections around the world have been bombarding Harmony Gold with emails protesting at the lockout and the disgusting treatment of the mineworkers.
After Alec's speech the AMCU committee members thanked DSM/CWI for their tremendous support and said that they would most likely be seeking further assistance from DSM/CWI with future confrontations at other shafts.
The AMCU negotiators then reported that management had conceded to almost all of the demands of the workers, the mine would be re-opening the following day and AMCU was being officially recognised as the main negotiating union.
Comrade Nqulo, one of the Harmony Gold mineworkers and DSM national committee member from Carletonville reported that he had sold 50 copies of our recently produced paper 'Izwi Labasebenzi' around the doors of his mineworkers township and continued his sales drive at the meeting with his CWI flag held high.
In The Socialist 20 February 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party review