NATIONAL Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has released the declaration from the Preparatory Assembly convened to discuss the forming of a mass South African ‘United Front’.
The assembly which took place from the 13-15 of December in Johannesburg was attended by 350 delegates from around the country representing a diverse range of trade unions, social movements, popular organisations, faith-based organisations, NGOs and anti-capitalist groups.
The declaration opens with an analysis of the world crisis of capitalism and the changed role of the ANC.
‘Globally we are experiencing the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Wars and counter-revolutions stretch from the Middle East to the far East to Africa and the Americas.
‘Imperialism knows no constraint. The devastating ecological and climate crises are caused by a predatory capitalist system that is endangering the very existence of humanity.
‘Post-apartheid capitalism is leaving a trail of inequality, hunger, poverty and misery. The wealthy elite and the bosses – white and black – refuse to concede a single inch to the urgent needs of the majority.
‘They view even the most basic reforms as a potential threat to their profit margins. The ANC government now consistently echoes these views. Every progressive programme, strategy and intention is either abandoned or rejected by the government in the face of the brutal logic of managing a capitalist state.
‘The ANC government has refused to confront capital and white privilege and instead become an enabler of white monopoly capital and their junior BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) partners. This is the source of the political crises facing our country.’
The statement continues by saying that it is in this crisis situation that the forming of a United Front has become vital.
‘From the 13-14 December 2014 in Johannesburg ‘The cry of the Preparatory Assembly of the United Front is KWANELE, KWANELE, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, GENOEG IS GENOEG.
‘Our call from this historic assembly that has broken new grounds is for our people to unite in the year of the United Front. Our task is to build solidarity in struggle in Southern Africa and internationally. We are internationalists.
‘We are setting out on a journey to rise to the grave challenges of our times and unite the struggles of our people: workers, unemployed, women and youth to amplify them so as to shake and revolutionise this country.
‘We are confident that our actions will reverberate throughout Southern Africa and will inevitably echo across the continent.
‘While basing ourselves on the heroic movements of the past, on the struggles to make programmes like the Freedom Charter and others a material force, the United Front is going to the people; it is unfolding a process of popular assemblies to collect the demands of our people, to listen and to build a front that is of the people, for the people and by the people. The United Front will unite the working classes, rural and urban in struggle and in which women and youth will be in the forefront.
‘With a great sense of urgency we have come together as the United Front and are uniting our separate and often fragmented efforts, to build solidarity, restore confidence and hope amongst the masses of this country. The building of working class and popular power lies at the heart of our initiative.’
The declaration continues by highlighting the planned make up of the United Front, saying:
‘The United Front is a front of mass action and struggle. Across the country people in communities, workplaces, townships and villages are mobilising against poverty, inequality and corruption. Our role is to unite and co-ordinate these struggles.
‘As activists of the United Front, we view our first and main task to build movements that mobilise to fight corruption, looting of public resources, failing service delivery, increasingly unaccountable governance, violence against women, children and LGBTQI people, police brutality, and anti-poor/pro-rich economic policies (“neo-liberalism”); We will resist retrenchments, cut-offs, evictions, collapse of our education and health systems and the retribalisation of the countryside
‘Our goal is to strive for the deepening of democracy and the building of people’s power in social, economic and political spheres where collective needs and interests of the people as a whole come before profits and other elite interests.’
The statement continues: ‘Mass organisations of the oppressed and exploited should be the main organisational expression of affiliation to the UF. These include trade unions, social movements, civics, women’s organisations, student and youth organisations, and other membership-based organisations of the mass of the people.
‘All those who agree and accept the vision, aims, mission, principles, programme. duties and obligations of the UF will be allowed to join our Front.’
The declaration then sets a timetable for the formation of its organs:
‘To this end the United Front will establish several working groups to unite organisations and struggles in these areas, elaborating campaign and mobilising strategies. Between now and the official launch of the United Front we are going to unite in struggle against the national austerity budget, particularly on the issues affecting poor communities on February 25. We will organise a day of mass action on March 21 in defence of human rights, freedom of expression and the right to organise and against police brutality.’
The Preparatory Assembly also announced that it had put in place a National Working Committee to oversee the implementation of its decisions and specifically to prepare for the official launch of the United Front on the 25-27 April 2015, they include: Andrew Chirwa, Bandile Mdlalose, Brian Ashley, Cynthia Machaba, Dinga Sikwebu, John Appolis, Kwezilomsa Mbandazayo, Mazibuko Jara, Reverend James Fatuse, Ronnie Kasrils, Vuyiseka Dubula, Zackie Achmat and Zanoxolo Wayil.
The declaration concludes by saying: ‘We give notice to Judge Farlam that the United Front will be watching for the outcomes of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. We demand nothing less than justice for Marikana! An injury to one is an injury to all.’
At the NUMSA Assembly, general secretary Irvin Jim told delegates that the union would not become political party.
He asserted: ‘NUMSA is and will remain a trade union, inspired by Marxism Leninism.
‘It will not convert itself into a political party,’ he told delegates at its United Front assembly in Kempton Park, on the East Rand.
He said NUMSA saw itself playing a lead role in the formation of the United Front, which was formed last year to resist, fight, and defeat the system of private greed.
‘We have, therefore, invited all of you gathered in this important assembly to help shape this important journey we must undertake together,’he explained.
He said the working class were not the political property of either the ANC or the SA Communist Party (SACP).
‘Their (working class) presence in the ANC and SACP is premised on the sole fact that these organisations are able to protect and advance the class interests of the working class.’
He told delegates that both organisations no longer champion the interests of the working class or socialism. and that they had betrayed the dream for equality in a post-1994 South Africa
‘Our call for a united front of the working class and a movement for socialism is precisely a defence of the national democratic programme, the Freedom Charter, which remains the only programme that is capable of laying the basis for socialist transformation of South African society,’ said Jim.