Speech delivered by COSATU President by Sidumo Dlamini at the SADTU National General Council

10 September 2009

The President of SADTU,
The entire SADTU NEC present here today,
Comrades` delegates and compatriots

COTASU is honoured to have been invited to this important meeting which is taking place in the midst of the economic challenges facing the world today and just 10 days before the COSATU`s 10th National Congress.

Comrades there are three key interconnected challenges facing our movement today and these include the following:

1. The first one is the Global Economic Crisis - particularly in so far as it is imposing constraints for the translation of the Polokwane commitments and the election manifesto into reality.

There are a few things that must be said about the manifestations of the Global Economic Crisis.

  1. This is nothing else but the inevitable crisis of Capitalism but Capitalist apologists don`t want to hear that because for years since the 1930, the great depression Capitalist and after the Cold war they have been enjoying a high ride of ideological hegemony and have been enjoying the success of capitalism despite the fact that in the same period there has been an increase in the levels of poverty and inequality. Even now they arrogantly still want us to believe that this is just as a result of a few greedy individuals and the problems of the financial sector.
  2. But the reality is that the situation remains extremely serious for capitalists internationally. According to two leading economists. Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O`Rourke, the recent slide of Global industrial output tracks the decline in output during the Great Depression "Horrifyingly closely". Within Europe, the decline in the industrial output of France and Italy has been worse than at the same point in the crisis as in the 1930`s. In Britain, Germany, USA and Canada, the fall has been very similar.
  3. They must accept that what we are experiencing is a fundamental crisis of capitalism, with collapsing markets and over-production, leading to mass unemployment and cuts in living standards across the world. Marxists have always explained that in the final analysis real capitalist crisis is always a crisis of over-production. This means general over-production, both of consumer and capital goods for the purposes of capitalist production. This in turn, is caused by the market economy, and the division of society into mutually conflicting classes. Such a phenomenon is peculiar to capitalist society alone.
  4. "The ultimate reason for all real crises", explained Marx, "always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute [physical] consuming power of society constituted their limit".
  5. In other words the capitalists are constantly revolutionizing production, throwing enormous amounts of commodities onto the world market, which periodically come into conflict with the limits of consumption caused by the exploitation of the masses who are unable to buy the goods they produce, having been robbed of the full fruits of their labour by the bosses.
  6. Capitalists do not simply sell commodities, but aim to sell them at a sufficient profit to accumulate wealth for them. In a slump, they cannot continue to sell their commodities at a price that guarantees the necessary average rate of profit for the bosses. Prices are reduced.
  7. The surplus-value contained within the commodities cannot be realized as before, resulting in a collapse of profits. Factories are therefore closed and workers made unemployed, further reducing demand for consumer and capital goods in an ever downward spiral.
  8. We are not simply dealing with a normal cyclical crisis of capitalism. Such crises will continue periodically until the death of capitalism itself.
  9. Today we are seeing a cyclical crisis exacerbated by what Marxists refer to as an organic crisis of the capitalist system itself. Capitalism has become a barrier to the development of society, where the productive forces - industry, technique and science - are increasingly constricted and hemmed in by the nation state and private ownership of the means of production. This organic crisis is graphically illustrated today by the inability of capitalism to fully utilize the productive forces it has brought into being.
  10. Because of these inherent features capitalism will always fail to meet the needs of the society.
  11. Comrades the question is what do we do about this, do we wait for the capitalist apologists to determine the alternative course or we struggle to open space and impose our own alternatives?

2. The second one is the extent to which the new administration under comrade Jacob Zuma, the current ANC leadership and the Alliance as a whole have the capacity to build consensus and provide leadership to the whole society and our ability to take the best chart a new developmental economic policy path.

  1. The reality comrades is that the period post Polokwane particularly with the limiting factors imposed by the Global Economic Crisis, we need to meet as the alliance and re-look at the Manifesto and agree on what is possible now and what are the long term goals and use such a programme to marshal and rally all the motive forces and the society as a whole. If we do not do that others will do it for us despite the Polokwane victory and they will turn it around into a hollow pyrrhic victory.
  2. We also need to ask ourselves hard questions as to whether the current configuration of power both in the state and the movement as whole can allow for building the stepping stones to Socialism. Does the NHl represent signs in that direction? Is the implementation of such programmes as the NHl represents a translation of our slogan Socialism is the future builds it now?
  3. One of the achievements of the post Polokwane era has been the deployment of trusted COSATU comrades into strategic positions of important policy. But must we pin our hopes to individuals or we need to support them as we should do to any other government department but build a strong mass based COSATU, ANC and the SACP that keep these deployees accountable with the capacity in policy formulation and implementation.
  4. Comrade it must be us who define what should be the content of a developmental state. When others were worried about getting political power we were worried about gaining Economic power and we developed the RDP. We still have that responsibility even today and our experience since 1994 has taught us that it is even more important than in 1994.

3. The third one is how we must deal with the vestiges of the Polokwane battles and managing the unity of the opposites post Polokwane.

  1. This is the challenge. When we went to Polokwane we formed tactical alliances, and in some occasions with people who stand diametrically opposed to the aspirations envisaged in freedom and not to mention a socialist programme. Some of these had in the earlier years of GEAR been the Shopstewards of GEAR proponents but they were later discarded because they had outlived their usefulness. They came back wounded and we embraced them. This group of people are today seeing an opportunity for them to loot state resources in the same way that their former allies did when they were still in power. It is from this grouping that you will see those who aspire to business politicians. They are corrupt and they want the ANC to create opportunities for them to pursue their business interests. As a result of these expectations and pressures almost every government department and every province has corruption scandal that implicates senior leaders of government and or our movement COSATU itself is not immune from these vultures.
  2. We also have some who thought they deserve to become ministers and not deputy ministers or feel they were wrongly deployed and yet when they speak at the public level they say they would accept whatever deployment from the movement.
  3. We have others who pay their allegiance to both COPE and the ANC and most of them are deployed in very strategic positions in the state.
  4. We have others who are loyal members of the movement but who still hope and think that they can still pursue the 1996 class project even under these conditions. They look for every opportunity to regain the strategic initiative and impose their agenda.

This meeting must think about how we should handle all these challenges.

May this NGC be a success!

Amandla