In Labor and Unions, Politics

Socialists rarely abstain from actively participating in elections, despite our conviction that bourgeois parliaments represent an illusion of democracy. This is because elections provide a brief period where millions of people are talking politics. This brings an opportunity to argue Marxist politics that sees the emancipation of humanity as a revolutionary act of the working class and its allies.

We engage in these discussions because we see the politics of gradual reform through parliament as an actual product of the working class and its movements. It is not an outside alien ideology being used to hoodwink ordinary people. Reformism emerged out of the everyday experience of the trade unions, meaningful transformations in the workplace and later in wider society, led to the idea that somehow capitalism could gradually be transplanted by socialism in an evolutionary manner, and that therefore a peaceful transition was possible.

The SRWP, we believe, do not stand in the tradition of reformist socialism and are simply standing in these forthcoming elections to pose the need for a clear revolutionary socialist alternative. That in short, elections are just one of many terrains of struggle. The danger in such a strategy of fielding candidates, as we see with the EFF, is that elections get prioritized over other battles where people are fighting over issues that may seem simply economic but are in essence tussles to exert control over our own destiny.

The SRWP is not an instrument dreamed up by the trade union bureaucracy to defend and promote their leadership in the trade union movement. It emerged due to the pressures from the working poor as the contradictions in our transition to democracy emerged for all to see. Real change, or what is called the second stage, the transition to socialism, has been placed on hold in line with other revolutions where this type of thinking held sway. Our democracy has not moved much beyond 1994 and this was evident in the Marikana Massacre of 2012. The ANC and COSATU leaders consciously took a decision to side with leadership of a British controlled multinational against workers. This was a logical follow-on from their active support for South African capitalism. Metalworkers saw this for what it was and the democratic traditions of their union held sway as they voted overwhelmingly to leave what had become an alliance of neo liberals.

The party has been very slow to emerge, it is not the broad left formation that we would like to have seen emerge but it has attracted some of the best working-class fighters into its ranks. Its membership is made up of civic based activists and active trade unionists, a genuine mass party of militants that are constantly tempered with socialist agitation and propaganda provides room for much needed optimism for the successful prospects of revolutionary upheaval.

The middle-class nature of the EFF leadership and the failure of its own militants to hold that leadership to account will provide further opportunities for the new party. The SRWP’s militants will need to ensure that this party is not a top down operation, where its members simply follow, but rather the opposite, where its members lead the party into struggles on every front and the elected leadership must provide clear political articulation and reflection on these struggles.

The SRWP is yet to be tested, but we believe that they must be given the benefit of doubt. Their intentions are noble and if we manage to get one or two SRWP candidates elected into the legislature, parliament can be used to critique the rapacious nature of capitalism, to get behind major fight backs and to raise the red flag of socialism from below.

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