FORWARD TO SOCIALISM IN 2020! – urges the SAFTU federation

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SAFTU members on a demonstration to defend their right to strike against their employer

THE News Line is pleased to reproduce the Christmas and New Year statement by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), edited for length.

THE South African Federation of Trade Unions sends festive greetings and a message of solidarity to its members and to the working class of South Africa and the world.
In particular our hearts go out to workers who have lost their jobs this year and in previous years. We are acutely aware that they will now join the long queue of 10.3 million South Africans who are unemployed, and the 63% living in degrading dehumanising poverty …
The world’s richest 1% own 45% of the world’s wealth. The wealthiest individuals, those owning over $100,000 in assets, amount to less than 10% of the global population but own 84% of global wealth.
Yet 821.6 million people on earth are chronically undernourished. 256 million of these live in Africa; that’s 20% of the continent’s population going to sleep hungry. World Bank research shows that 10% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty but that in Africa that figure stands at 41% …
(South Africa) is on the brink of being downgraded by all the Credit Ratings Agencies to negative, which could lead to a collapse of investment and total economic collapse.
According to the World Inequality Database, the top 1% of South African earners take home almost 20% of all income in the country, while the top 10% take home 65%. The remaining 90% of South African earners get only 35% of total income.
The report adds that these unequal incomes … ‘remain stubbornly racialised, gendered and spatialised’.
And it is getting worse: ‘The real wages of the bottom 10% of earners have plummeted, shrinking by a quarter between 2011 and 2015. The country’s median incomes also shrank by 15%.
‘By contrast, the earnings of the top 2% grew by 15% over that period, while those in the top 1% saw their earnings balloon by 48%.’
Unemployment has now reached 10.3 million South Africans, a staggering level of 38.8%. Most worrying is that 58% of workers between 15 and 24 are out of work, the highest in the world.
Retrenchments (sackings) have rocketed throughout 2019 … Many more jobs are under threat.
… Public services across the board have seen further deterioration and some are close to collapse.
Public schools remain largely dysfunctional. 78% of grade 4 children can’t read for meaning in any language and 61% of grade 5s can’t do basic maths.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has failed even to eradicate 9,000 pit toilets at schools, which was promised by the successive ANC governments …
The public healthcare system stagnates in deep crisis as a result of budget cuts and outsourcing work as important as medical care, without any proper checks on the quality of the care being offered.
Hospitals and clinics around the country are hopelessly understaffed and under-equipped, as their budgets shrink, government has been using natural attrition to cut numbers including of frontline services and work is outsourced to private companies …
Public transport also staggers from one crisis another. … For large parts of 2019, Cape Town commuters had no trains running at all …
Poor communities have seen further escalation of crime and corruption. We are a country at war with itself. 57 people die violent deaths every day! …
Even the government sending the army into Cape Town townships has not reduced the horrific levels of murder related to the illegal drug trade, which has also ruined the lives of thousands …
Women and children have continued to suffer appalling levels of rape and murder, with woefully low levels of prosecution of those responsible. The police and courts must stop treating this as a secondary issue. Perpetrators must be arrested, charged and prosecuted and there must be no impunity for those found guilty …
At the root of all these huge problems are the ANC government’s disastrous pro-business neoliberal economic policies and the continuation of corruption and the looting of public resources in the private sector, SOEs and the public services.
SAFTU rejected Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s attempt to find a solution to the country’s economic crisis …
Nor is there any sign of Ramaphosa’s promised war on corruption taking off. Despite the mountain of evidence piling up at the Zondo commission of Inquiry, only a handful of relatively minor figures have so far been brought to court, while the Gupta brothers live the good life in Dubai.
All these problems are magnified by the paralysis and factionalism within the ANC leadership. Ramaphosa has been powerless to defeat the pro-Zuma faction, which is becoming more brazen in its attempt to escape the consequences of their crimes …
The year has also been plagued by serious attacks on workers’ democratic rights … the aim of government and business was to destroy the power of the unions by undermining workers’ constitutional right to strike – such as introducing a legal obligation on workers to have a secret ballot before they could exercise their right to strike, as well as introducing rigid balloting and picketing which in practice are impossible to comply with.
Unavoidably this statement has so far focussed on all the bad news of 2019. There is however much very good news as well – the story of the fight-back which has been waged by the unions and communities, in which SAFTU affiliates and members have played their part.
Workers have struck at Sibanye Stillwater mines, Blue Ribbon, Dis-Chem, the Plastic sector, Lanxess Chrome Mine, SAA, Unilever, Spar, Transnet ports, Oak Valley farms, the private security sector, and municipal workers in all major cities and many smaller towns. Others like bank workers, have been denied the right to strike through legal action by the bosses.
Communities too have poured on to the streets to protest at lack of services, corruption and crime – in Alexandra, Hamanskraal, Roodepoort, Vereeniging, Kroonstad, Blackheath, Tshwane, Bekkersdal, Orange Grove, Nomzamo, Lingelethu East, Bergville, Caledon, Eersteriver, Rus-ter-Vaal, Riverlea, Khayelitsha, Dunoon, Bishop Lavis, Hanover Park and Soweto, to name just a few.
The task we face in 2020 and beyond is to rebuild the trade union movement …
We must struggle to form a single movement of the working class …
Also, as agreed by the CC, there will be a series of general strikes in the coming year, not just narrow trade union strikes but broader working class mass strikes. Our demands will centre on

  • A campaign for a living wage for all workers, and the reversal of the attacks on the constitutional guarantee right to strike, defence of collective bargaining and fair labour standards and a more effective coordination of the living wage campaign, in particular amongst the most vulnerable workers … demand the total ban of the labour brokering system and en end to outsourcing and casualisation of workers …

All the problems facing South African workers are shared by the working class around the world. The monopoly capitalist imperialists are on the offensive everywhere. Extreme right-wing nationalist and populist demagogues are heading governments in the USA, UK, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Bolivia, India, Philippines and many more.
There have been brazen attempts to impose regime changes through right-wing military and civilian coup d’états. They failed in Venezuela but succeeded in Bolivia, where Evo Morales was forced by the military and extreme right-wing forces backed by US imperialism, to resign.
But the masses of workers and indigenous people are fighting back and rising to demand his reinstatement.
Elsewhere mass uprisings in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Algeria, Spain, Greece and France represent a turning point in the struggle to defeat right-wing populist and other reactionary elements of the world counter-revolution.
These uprisings, the women’s movements and climate change strikes are symptomatic of the developing pre-revolutionary world situation. SAFTU must connect and position itself to lead the working class to take its place in this world revolution.
In this regard SAFTU pledges that 2020 shall be different from the previous years where the working class formations limited their response to the unfolding catastrophe with militant statements of condemnation that are not accompanied by action.
2020 shall be the year of intense mobilisation and unity of the working class and the left forces in our country! …
Forward to socialism in 2020!