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Democratic Left Front

This statement was issued to a meeting of 11 Cosatu unions opposed to the expulsion of NUMSA – Mid October 2014

While our first task must be to launch a mass campaign to defend a militant and independent campaign, we must consider the longer-term implications of what is taking place. The crisis is COSATU is an outcome of the attempt by the SACP/ANC to undermine COSATU as a militant and fighting federation that mobilises against the government’s policies. Nzimande and other SACP cadres in government cannot stomach having their reformism being challenged by the workers movement they are supposed to be the vanguard of. What they have done in recklessly dividing COSATU has been done to protect their liquidation into government and the state. It is because of this that we have to raise the need building a political alternative. This is why we in the DLF support NUMSA resolutions for a united front and for building a new movement for socialism. This is why we as the DLF believe our struggle is at a major turning point.

It is critical for those fighting for an independent and militant COSATU to link their struggle to the growing militant struggles of the workers, especially the mineworkers and farmworkers and with the community protests that have hit record high levels. This inevitably means looking for the ways of building common struggle against capital and the state. It means challenging the ANC government. As the DLF we believe the ANC has crossed the Rubicon and is defending the system against workers and the poor. It will become clear that the struggle to safe our COSATU is linked to the struggle to build a political alternative. The struggle inside COSATU is ultimately about that choice. The time has come to choose between continued support for a party and alliance that manages and supports the capitalist system, or build an alternative political organisation that will lead the struggle to end capitalist

COSATU can only be effective if it is willing to provide the space for all political expression of its affiliates. It should hold its Special National Congress in order to chart the way forward in the face of increasing attacks of the bosses neoliberalism and the refusal of large layers of the working class to accept this lying down. Instead we find a plan inside COSATU to expel NUMSA from the federation. Some COSATU leaders want to use the coming Special CEC to expel the biggest union affiliate in the federation. They started with the suspension of comrade Vavi. Then they tore up the COSATU Constitution by refusing to call a Special National Congress. Now they are going after NUMSA. They are likely to suspend or dismiss Vavi as well.

This cannot be a plan to make COSATU stronger, it is not a plan to gather the forces of the workers movement for an effective workers response to the global capitalist crisis. No, this is a plan to weaken COSATU, to undermine the independence of the trade union movement and to turn our federation into a sweetheart trade union that takes the side of the bosses against workers.

They are terrified that a democratic and properly constituted CC would result in a vote of no confidence in their leadership. This could very well result in Dlamini’s recall as COSATU president signaling the end of Nzimande’s and the SACP’s control of COSATU. After NUMSA’s expulsion any branch, local, district of COSATU or COSATU affiliate will be disciplined if they do not tow the line from the top.

Expelling NUMSA from Cosatu will in all likely be the beginning of the end of Cosatu – certainly as a militant trade union movement. They will have sacrificed a trade union movement with a heroic history for a few silver coins from Zuma’s table. The nine unions can, just like the Save our SAMWU campaign, initiate a mass programme of action to rebuild worker democracy and worker control in the labour movement. It can begin the process of rooting out corruption through ensuring democratic control and worker accountability.

Yet this will not be enough. A simultaneous war on bureaucratic privilege needs to be waged. Official’s salaries and privileges must be contained and brought in-line with skilled workers. No longer shall the union bureaucracy be the means for class formation. We have a small window of opportunity to rebuild the trade union movement into a fighting force that takes forward the aspirations of its members, and of the working poor. Our rallying call has to be workers and communities unite for a socialist South Africa.

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