SACP message to SADTU’s National General Council delivered by Madala Masuku, SACP Deputy General Secretary

Ekurhuleni, Tuesday 4 October 2022

Dear comrades, I wish to express our sincere gratitude as the SACP to SADTU for the invitation to attend and address the union’s National General Council.

The SACP salutes you, the democratic teachers of our country, on the occasion of the World Teachers’ Day, Wednesday 5 October 2022, which coincides with your National General Council.

The union’s highest decision-making body in between its National Congresses will discuss major policy issues regarding education, economic and broader social transformation and development, and national and international situation.

SADTU National General Council also takes place just after the COSATU 14th National Congress and in the context of the collective bargaining process underway in the public service. The SACP is looking forward to your assessment of both. Above all else, we wish to stress the importance of ensuring unity in and through the assessment. Unity is the weapon of victory for working-class organisation and struggles. You have the full support of the SACP. 

In the same vein, we express our solidarity with you, the democratic teachers of our country, as well as other COSATU affiliates, and indeed the entire population of the workers covered by the public service bargaining process, regardless of their trade union affiliation. We do this bearing in mind the continuing impact on public servants and their families of the government reneging from the 2018 three-year public service collective bargaining agreement in its last year. We appreciate that you have factored the impact in your calculations to “Solve for X” where “X” stands for an adequate settlement when approaching the current public service collective bargaining process.

Together, let us confront neoliberalism.

We recommend you look at the problem of neoliberal economic policy, including its austerity agenda, in discussing education, economic and broader social transformation, including collective bargaining, and the national and international situation.

South Africa is in the middle of neoliberal economic policy failures and political divisions caused by the neoliberal economic trajectory, in which the Tripartite Alliance is directly affected. The SACP is strongly opposed to neoliberalism, in favour of a national democratic revolutionary path.

Neoliberal globalisation is known throughout the world to be mainly driven by imperialist forces, both states and multinational corporations that stand to benefit from it. In the Global South, foreign-controlled finance capital and institutions dominated by the imperialist forces, such as the IMF and the World Bank, have played a destructive role through their neoliberal policy regime. This includes turning key domestic policies and institutions, such as economic policies, national treasuries and central banks, into the transmission belts of neoliberal policies. It is important for us to qualify this statement.

As a matter of fact, there are domestic neoliberal agents in the Global South. However, they cannot be understood in isolation from the global structural forces, drivers and wave of neoliberalism, whether in the public policy space, in curriculum, in the content of learning and teaching, in research agendas and methods, or whether on other fronts of the broader political and class struggle.

This is the context in which the government in our country adopted the neoliberal policy called GEAR in short in 1996 as “non-negotiable”, “cast in stone, as the so-called “fundamental policy of the ANC”. The cumulative failures of neoliberalism result in liberation movements gradually losing support in their historical bases. In other countries, this has led to what were once liberation movements experiencing electoral decline, losses and ultimately losing power.

One key question we recommend you include in discussing the international and national political situation is whether the unfolding South African situation is any different. What intervention will SADTU propose emerging from this National General Council if the South African case is not different, considering the ANC and the Alliance as the units of analysis?

Together, let us build a powerful, socialist movement of the workers and poor.

As the SACP, we have been pushing to achieve the reconfiguration of the Alliance. There is no tangible success for far, but for more than a decade now. We welcomed a shift in the ANC at last acknowledging that it had serious internal problems that required renewal and unity to overcome. However, worrying developments continued, contradicting both the much-needed reconfiguration of the Alliance and the imperative of renewal and unity.

Given that the reconfiguration of the Alliance and the renewal and unity process are contested, including being opposed, undermined, or paid leap service by others, and having analysed our collective experiences, we have resolved to avoid investing in our hopes in a positive outcome on both fronts. For example, there can be no principled unity with criminals or forces opposing, undermining or paying leap service to the reconfiguration of the Alliance and the renewal and unity process.   

Therefore, while sincerely continuing with the effort to reconfigure the Alliance and achieve the renewal and unity of the ANC and indeed our entire movement, we have adopted two ideological, political, organisational and strategic innovations as part and parcel of our way forward. First, we resolved at our 14th National Congress in 2017 to build popular left fronts, to forge a popular left front movement. Second, in mid-July at our 15th National Congress, we resolved to build a powerful, socialist movement of the workers and poor. At our next Augmented Central Committee, the Political Bureau will present a roadmap on the two and the associated questions of the reconfiguration of the Alliance, renewal and unity of our movement, and electoral strategy.

Before we finalise the roadmap, we will consult with COSATU on the outcomes of its 14th National Congress, as well as the with ANC as an Alliance partner. The principles of the roadmap direct the SACP to go wider than the Alliance to include other worker and progressive organisations in the extensive consultation process. We will do exactly that as part of the roadmap. The spirit and letter of the roadmap will be woven into the programme of action of the SACP.

Land, Food, Work and Comprehensive Social Security

On the past weekend, the SACP launched the 2022–2023 chapter of its Red October Campaign. As you know, the Red October Campaign is inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution, which took place in Russia in 1917.

In 2022–2023, the Red October Campaign focuses on “Land, Food and Work”. This is the main theme of the campaign, which is underpinned by concern about the impact of the global cost-of-living crisis and unemployment, poverty and inequality on the workers and poor in our country.

Besides “Land, Food and Work”, also seeking to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, the Red October Campaign 2022–2023 seeks to deepen the momentum towards a comprehensive social security system. In this regard, the key demand that the campaign drives is that the government must not terminate the Social Relief of Distress Grant at the end of March 2023, but must both maintain and improve it as a foundation for a universal basic income grant.   

Through this campaign, the SACP will mobilise working-class and poor to fight for accelerated land redistribution and access to South Africa’s natural resources, to fight hunger, starvation, misery and underdevelopment. Through this campaign, underpinned by united action, the working-class can reconfigure property relations and the associated social relations of production towards ending exploitation and realising social emancipation.

Celebrating the 77th anniversary of the World Federation of Trade Unions

Having summarised the points we have made, please allow us to take this opportunity on the international front to play tribute to the World Federation of Trade Unions on its 77th anniversary.

The World Federation of Trade Unions was founded on 3 October 1945, just after the end of the Second World War.

It has proclaimed as its prime objective contributing—by means of struggle and international solidarity—to the emancipation of the working people from exploitation, colonialism, imperialism and related domination and expansionism in the economic, social, political and cultural spheres, to guarantee sovereignty, freedom, security of nations and non-interference in their domestic affairs.

Furthermore, the world Federation of Trade unions was established as a class-based international trade union movement of the struggle of all wage-earners. It supports and encourages action by trade unions in every country to achieve the independent rights and demands of the workers, to defend their interests and to combat all forms of domination, subservience, exploitation and oppression.

The establishment the World Federation of Trade Unions was consistent with the call by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels for the workers of the world to unite in pursuit of the common struggle to dismantle capitalism and fight for a transition towards socialism and a classless society free from the exploitation of one person or class by another.

However, there are other global trade union confederations. These were formed in pursuit of other aims and objectives, including reformism within the parameters of capitalist exploitation. Some of these global trade union confederations were formed to divide the world trade union and broader working-class movement.

For instance, the World Confederation of Labour was founded as the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions associated with the Christian Democratic Parties of Western Europe. It based its foundation on a religious circular which rejected socialism—the process of class struggle and democratic transformation to emancipate the working-class from capitalist exploitation, overthrow of the exploitative capitalist system and replace it with a society in which the exploitation of one person or class by another is systematically eliminated.

In another case, trade union federations from the United States and Britain played a leading role in founding the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions as a splinter from the World Federation of Trade Unions. This took place in the context of the Cold War and centred on a politics of the Marshal Plan developed by the imperialist regime of the United States. The majority in the World Federation of Trade Unions had reservations about or were completely opposed to the Marshal Plan.

To preserve unity, the leadership proposed that the World Federation of Trade Unions should note instead of organising a vote for or against the Marshal Plan. However, those who spearheaded the split disregarded the advice and efforts to discourage dividing the world trade union movement.  

The formation of the International Trade Union Congress in 2006 brought together the World Confederation of Labour and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. It is important to study the origins and history of these three organisations compared to the class-conscious World Federation of Trade Unions in celebrating its 77th anniversary.

We therefore propose that SADTU should assist, especially in the interest of new generation of workers, by conducting an extensive study of the history of the global trade union movement, including what has caused and sustains the divisions that affect the movement. This will be of benefit in enhancing learning and teaching content in trade union education and capacity building, with the aim of deepening class-conscious trade unionism towards the emancipation of the world working-class. We believe that SADTU, as a trade union of democratic educators, is best placed to conduct that study and help enhance trade union education and capacity building.

That said, it remains essential to pursue wider trade union unity not only in our country, but internationally as well.

Once again, we wish your National General Council great success.