South Africa must follow the example of the Russian Revolution


IT IS time for the South African working class to follow the example of the Russian workers who overthrew not only the Tsar and feudal aristocracy but the emerging capitalist system. It is even more necessary for us to overthrow our diseased and rotting capitalist system, says the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).

A statement of the SAFTU NEC meeting held from 20-22 November 2017 in Johannesburg, said: ‘We made a vow that South Africa, in particular its labour market, will not be the same again as we seek to give a voice to the 76% of workers who are not members of unions. Unity of workers remains the strategic programme of the federation. In line with these objectives we wish to report the following key decisions of the National Executive Committee.

‘We set a goal to grow by 300,000 members to reach 1 million workers in December 2017. The NEC reaffirmed our commitment to build a militant, independent and revolutionary federation, and to forge ahead with all the necessary logistical steps to establish stable and strong provincial and local structures, a well-functioning head office, but most important, strong, financially viable, democratic, worker-controlled, united and militant affiliates.

‘In line with the commitment to unite all workers and to grow SAFTU, we are happy to report that every one of the 24 affiliated unions of SAFTU reported that they are growing, despite the job-loss bloodbath, which is ravaging the manufacturing industry in particular.

‘We celebrated the decisions of three more unions who have taken democratic decisions in the constitutional structures to join SAFTU. These unions are the South African State and Allied Workers Union (SASAWU), the South African Football Players Union (SAFPU) and the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA).

‘We are accordingly on course to realise the goal to grow by 300,000 members and reach 1 million members by December 2017. In order to ensure that we don’t just claim members we are verifying all members of existing affiliated unions on 5 December 2017.

‘We call on NACTU and FEDUSA, as well as all other non-affiliated unions to place the interests of workers ahead of all other considerations by embracing unity based on the principles they have endorsed which is that unions must be independent, campaigning and democratic.


‘The NEC celebrated the historic victory for one of its affiliates, the National Transport Movement (NTM), who won the reinstatement of 700 employees dismissed by PRASA on 4 February 2013. ‘The Labour Appeal Court Judgement on 2 November 2017 upheld the NTM’s appeal and reinstated the workers with full pay, backdated to 4 February 2013 that will be a salary for 4 years and 10 months. PRASA was also ordered to pay legal costs incurred in appealing against the judgment of the Labour court by acting Justice Mokoena on 18 March 2016.

‘The NEC also celebrated the victory of the former Midrand workers who are being integrated back to the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council following successful negotiations between SAFTU and Mayor Mashaba.

‘These are not just a triumph for NTM’s 700 PRASA employees and the 300 former Midrand workers but the thousands of other workers – including Kumba iron ore mineworkers, Umbhaba farm workers, Jumbo Cash-and-Carry staff and many more – who have been fighting against unfair dismissals, who will be inspired by this victory. SAFTU will continue to represent these workers and we urge them not to lose hope…

Lesson from Zimbabwe

‘The NEC met against the background of all the news of the huge mass demonstrations in Zimbabwe and the resignation of President Robert Mugabe. We congratulate our neighbouring workers and citizens, and understand the outpouring of relief and joy. South Africans will respond in a similar way when we finally get rid of our corrupt president.

‘SAFTU however cautions the workers of both countries that the crisis we face is not caused by individuals and factions, however wicked. Replacing Mugabe with Mnangagwa is no solution to the structural crisis of record-breaking unemployment and poverty afflicting the citizens of Zimbabwe. Deep down in their hearts Zimbabweans know nothing will change. . .

‘You cant teach the old dog new tricks! Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF have killed democracy and the economy of their country, not just Mugabe and his extremely arrogant wife. We have made the same point about South Africa’s political developments in the ruling party. Replacing Zuma with Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or any other candidate will not solve any of the real and structural problems facing workers and the poor. Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma are agents of the same state, which will remain “captured” by the capitalist ruling class to continue to implement their policies.

‘That is why we have to stand firm on our view that if we want to build a truly free, equal and democratic society as envisaged by the Freedom Charter, it is not individuals or factions we have to get rid of but the whole rotten capitalist order, as well as the bourgeois parties. As Vladimir Lenin said: “A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution.”

South African crisis for workers

‘South Africa is being plunged into a horrific economic meltdown. Unemployment, at the real rate of 36.85% is six times the world average; more than half the population live below the poverty line and inequality is the widest on the globe. A new, looming threat of a “junk” rating by ratings agencies threatens to push the economy over the cliff into a free-fall. Workers will recall that SAFTU, even before it was launched, through its affiliated unions submitted a Section 77 notice in December 2016. We submitted three simple demands:

‘We wanted government to give us a plan to stop job-loss bloodbath and to create jobs for now 9.4 million unemployed South Africans;

‘We wanted government to scrap the deal signed with sweetheart and captured federations to introduce an insulting and slavery national minimum wage of R20 an hour or R3500 a month. In addition we demanded that government do not introduce measures that will have the effect of undermining workers hard-won right to strike.

‘We demanded that government introduce a free, compulsory, decolonised and high quality public education from pre-school to university level.

‘For almost a year now the class collaborators at Nedlac played every trick in the book to frustrate us so that we could not use this instrument to protest, whilst not conceding an inch on any of the demands we made. Yet they quickly gave a certificate to COSATU to protest when it only submitted a notice in July. This is all an attempt to prop up a federation that has been abandoned by workers. Workers were not fooled they stayed away from marches, which proved us right – that they were about factional ANC battles to sort out the eating queue not about the purported reasons submitted at Nedlac.

‘Finally Nedlac capitulated and gave SAFTU a right to protest but too late in the year for us to wage a serious national strike. The NEC has decided that the SAFTU NEC to be held on the 20 February 2018 will decide the date for the general strike. In the meantime we will continue with small-scale mobilisations and protest actions as a warm-up to mass demonstrations and strikes in 2018.

‘Plans are to be drawn up now for a massive event on May Day 2018, which next year coincides with the introduction of the poverty national minimum wage, which legitimises and institutionalises poverty pay.

Free education

‘It was resolved to take a leading role in the expected protests at the beginning of the 2018 academic year and link together the workers’ and students’ struggles. The meeting expressed alarm at the committee’s recommendation that the cost of providing free technical and vocational training could be funded from the R100 billion surpluses accumulated by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), money which is only there because of a change in the law which unfairly prevents workers who resigned from the employment, whatever the circumstances, from claiming UIF.’

The statement concluded: ‘As we celebrate the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, it is time for the South African working class to say that enough is enough, and follow the example of the Russian workers who overthrew not only the Tsar and feudal aristocracy but the emerging capitalist system. It is even more necessary for us to overthrow our diseased and rotting capitalist system.’