A programme for revolutionary struggle in South Africa - by Revolutionary Young Marxists.
South African society is riddled with contradictions. Everywhere one looks today the organic crisis of capitalism is having a devastating impact on the lives of millions of working people. On the one hand, nearly 8 million people of working age are unemployed in the country. On the other hand, the gap between rich and poor is wider than its was under Apartheid. Today, two bourgeois families, the Ruperts and the Oppenheimers own more wealth than half of the South African society. At the same time millions of people remain homeless. This is the situation two decades after the formal overthrow of Apartheid.
The fundamental reason for this is the fact that while formal democracy was achieved with the overthrow of the hated apartheid regime, the wealth of the capitalists was not touched, and so our country today remains a capitalist country tightly run and controlled by a small minority of capitalists, bankers, land and mine-owners.
The reasons behind this situation are not to be found in the actions of this or that individual, but in the capitalist system which is unable to grant the smallest concessions to the workers and the poor. We believe the only way out of the nightmare of unemployment, misery and general want is to break with the system which spawn them. We believe that the only future possible for the South African youth, workers and mankind as a whole, is a socialist future.
The South African masses have reached out for this goal on many occasions, but the leadership of the ANC and the SACP have stubbornly clutched to the capitalist system and defended its violence against the masses. At each stage they have held back the enormous revolutionary energy of the masses on the grounds that before Socialism can be attained, we must solve the “immediate” problems such as racism, poverty, unemployment etc.
But we must ask ourselves, if Capitalism could exist without racism, poverty and unemployment then why bother fighting for Socialism? If the system could satisfy the basic needs of the masses, then why bother overthrowing it? Marxists support all of the struggles of the workers and poor against poverty, misery, racism and oppression. But we also point out that these are inherent parts of the capitalist system. The only way to solve these problems is to break with the narrow limits of the system. Under capitalism all victories can only be temporary and will be undermined by the Capitalists who control the state and the economy. It is with this in mind that we produce this programme of transitional demands for revolutionaries to use in order to connect the daily struggles of the masses with the question of Socialist revolution. The Revolutionary Young Marxists and the International Marxist Tendency are fighting to abolish Capitalism and for a Socialist system in which the wealth of society is owned and controlled by society as a whole in order to provide for the needs of the people and not for the profit of the few.
Jobs for all!
Unemployment in South Africa has reached devastating levels. According to official statistics, the unemployment rate in the country is 25 percent. The expanded definition of unemployment which includes discouraged work-seekers and those who do only part-time work, stands at 36 percent. The situation is even worse as far as the youth is concerned. Out of the 19.7 million working-age youth, nearly 10 million are not economically active. According to the expanded definition, the unemployment rate for the youth (younger than 25) is at an incredible 63.1%. These figures have been hovering at these levels for more than 10 years. It points to the fact that we are not dealing with a temporary phenomenon. We are faced with permanent organic unemployment. Proof of this lies in the fact that during a period of the last decade the economy actually showed a long period of growth. But even this did not reduce the high levels of unemployment. This was known as the period of ‘’jobless growth.’’ The reason for this is the organic crisis of the capitalist system. Under Capitalism, production is not made to create jobs or lift people out of poverty, but for profit for the capitalists.
The devastating effects of unemployment are bad enough. But for many of those who are ‘’lucky’’ to have a job, things are not much better. First of all, the high levels of unemployment means that the average South African worker has at least five unemployed dependents. This put enormous physical and emotional strain on workers. The high unemployment rate has the additional effect of lowering wages across the board, especially in non-unionised businesses. It is therefore in the direct interest of workers to lead the struggle against unemployment. In order to wage the fight most effectively, it is essential for the trade unions to lead the fight against unemployment by actively mobilising the unemployed workers. This will also have the additional effect of warding off growing attempts by the bosses to divide the working class by falsely painting unionised workers as a ’’privileged’’ layer of society.
But in order to end the scourge of unemployment once and for all, we demand the reduction the working week to 35 hours without loss of pay! This will mean that work will be shared out to everyone - thereby wiping out unemployment. Together with this, the reduction of the working week will free up time for working people to participate in the democratic running of society and to pursue science, culture etc. in order to develop them to their full potential as all human beings.
A living wage!
In addition to unemployment, the cost of living has risen greatly over the last period. For instance, a City Press investigation has shown that between 2008 and 2013 food prices have increased by nearly 20 percent. The price of bread alone has shot up by 69 percent.
While the rich and privileged live in the obscene luxury, the workers of South Africa have to work hard for a paycheck which is barely enough to make a living. In 2012 the mining bosses in collusion with the state were willing to murder dozens of miners rather than concede a meagre wage of R12,500 a month.
As a result of this, we are calling for a living wage for all workers. Basic human needs cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the profits of the capitalists! We demand that a national minimum wage as a first step to be set to no less than R12,500 per month.
It is the workers who create the wealth, who dig the pits, who work the shop floors and who pay the price of hard labour through lower life expectancy while the big capitalists withdraw billions of Rands in profits.If the Capitalists are not willing to concede these reasonable demands, the workers must move to their companies, nationalise them and run them under the democratic workers control.
Nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopolies!
For more than a hundred years, the mines, the banks and the big monopolies have sucked South Africa dry while its people have been kept in poverty. Today, when the workers of South Africa are fighting to claim their rights and to secure better living conditions, the bosses are threatening by closing down factories and pits. Our reply is: If the Capitalists can not afford us, we can not afford the Capitalists.
We support all the demands which will improve the living conditions of the working class and the poor. But these demands are in direct conflict with the ownership of the economy. That is because all the real wealth in society are owned by a tiny minority in society, the Capitalists, yet all the wealth are created by the working class. But in order to give effect to the demands of the workers it is first necessary to expropriate the bosses. It is for this reason that we support the Freedom Charter and its nationalisation clause which states that: “The People must share in the country’s wealth! The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole!”
In contrast to bureaucratic state control, these nationalised entities must be run under the democratic control and management of the working class. All managers must be democratically elected by the workers and be subject to recall at any time. The workers know the ins and outs of the productive process and as a class, only they develop a collective consciousness to lead society. Furthermore, the nationalised entities must be used to provide for the needs of the majority and not for the private profit of the bosses.
Workers’ control in the workers’ organisations!
Over the last period, some of the leaders of the mass organisations have completely abdicated their responsibility and have been using their roles to aim for state and cabinet posts. This is reflected in the crisis of many of the COSATU unions and the rest of the Tripartite Alliance. The end result is that these leaders such as Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin, who are supposed to be ‘’communists’’, end up implementing capitalist policies.
The reason why the mass organisations were created in the first place was to fight for the interests of the working masses and the poor. We therefore we stand for the demand that workers must take back their organisations. All workers’ leaders must be democratically elected by the members and must be subject to recall at any time by those who have elected them. The leaders of the working class must have a similar living standard as the rest of working class. The mass organisations must be worker-led and worker-controlled. This includes earning a wage that does not exceed those of the average worker. The unions must not be a conveyer belt to high political office. Down with careerism and place-seeking in the unions and the mass organisations!
Ban water and electricity cut-offs!
In the years after the advent of bourgeois democracy, some 12 million people were connected to the power grid and access to running water grew to over 90 percent. However, these gains have been eroded over the years. Sharp increases in the prices of water and electricity have meant that millions of homes have experienced water and electricity cut-offs.
Billions of Rands are poured into Eskom, but they disappear before they reach any of the capacity increase projects. At the same time, the same people who are mismanaging the company and siphoning money out of it and into their own pockets, receive millions of Rands in bonuses every year. The energy crisis is a direct result of running the company along capitalist lines.
For these reasons, we demand that the books of all utilities companies be opened to all. The workers and poor must see the how these companies are run. We further demand that the running of the companies by the capitalist managers be replaced by the democratic control of councils of workers and the unions. All privatised utility companies must be also be re-nationalised and a massive plan of modernisation of the power grid must be embarked upon in order to facilitate consistent cheap power to all South Africans.
Free Healthcare and Education
In South Africa, access to health-care is guaranteed in the country’s constitution, yet in reality access for many people is being undermined every day. One of these barriers is the vast distances people has to travel, especially in rural areas just to see a doctor or nurse at the clinic. Apart from the fact that this provide a huge financial burden on the poor, it could further undermine the very health which the patient is trying to improve.
Meanwhile access to high quality healthcare is restricted to the wealthiest. South Africa’s private healthcare system is among the best in the world and the majority of the rich clients are covered by big insurance companies. In 2005, spending per member in the private medical scheme was nine times higher than spending in the public sector and one specialist doctor served less than 500 patients in the private sector compared to 11000 in the public sector. This shows the real situation in the healthcare system and it shows that ‘’access’’ to quality healthcare depends largely on ‘’access’’ to money.
What is true for healthcare is also true for education. In Cuba the adult literacy rate is 99.8% while in Brazil ( the biggest economy in South America ) it is only 88%. The gains of the Cuban revolution of 1959 with regard to health and education are an undeniable fact and are even acknowledged by the the World Bank. Even this leading international capitalist institution had to acknowledge that Cuba had achieved universal literacy, eradicate certain diseases and provide universal access to safe drinking water and basic public sanitation and that all of these are comparable to the most developed capitalist countries.
On the basis of a nationalised planned economy, the Cuban Revolution have created one of the best healthcare systems in the world. With an infant mortality rate of just 4.2 per thousand births, Cuba is amongst the best in the world. Life expectancy in Cuba is 78 years. Cubans live on average 30 years longer than their Haitian neighbours. The healthcare system is so good that Cuba has been exporting doctors to many countries of the world.
All of this has happened in a small caribbean island which has been suffering under a trade embargo from the United for more than 50 years . These are just a glimpse of the benefits of a nationalised healthcare system. With South Africa’s enormous wealth, such a system would drastically improve real access to quality healthcare for all. The possibilities in South Africa with its abundance of natural resources is unlimited. On the basis of a nationalised health and education system the problems of illiteracy and poor health could easily be eradicated in a very short period.
We demand the nationalisation of the whole healthcare system along with the pharmaceutical companies and its rapid expansion so as to provide free top quality healthcare for all South Africans.
Similarly all private education must be nationalised and free education on all levels must be offered to all South Africans. At the same time a grant system must be introduced to allow every South African to take an education without being economically constrained. The raised level of education will in turn add to the expertise and efficiency of the working class and allow it to further drive of productivity and thereby living standards.
For the bourgeois the workers are only necessary insofar as they can run their machines. At the same time only a small minority are educated to understand the theoretical foundations of production. The two fields of work, intellectual and practical, only have the minimal connection to each other. These limitations imposed by the division of labour between intellectual and manual labour severely limit the development of science, technology and production.
By tying education on all levels into production, innovation and development could be raised to new levels. Under Capitalism, the “cost” of this is too high for the ruling class. In a Socialist society however, education will be a preparation for running society and production.
In Capitalism the workers are nothing but appendages to the machines they run and that also sets the limits for bourgois mass education. But in a socialist society, a holistic and high level education is a prerequisite for workers to be able to run, manage and improve production and society to the fullest. In this way, research, development and the future direction of society is not left up to a small layer of parasitic Capitalists and their narrow individual capabilities, but is carried forward by the full participation of all. This would allow for unprecedented advances in all spheres of human society and activity.
High quality affordable public transport!
South Africa is a country in desperate need of a viable and sustainable public transport network. According to the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), taxis transport approximately 15-million commuters daily and this consists of 60 to 70% of the commuting public and workforce. Yet this industry is plagued with health and safety issues and a track record of death and poor driving. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations report released in 2012, the minibus taxi death rate was 27 deaths per 10 000 vehicles and three times higher than the nine deaths per 10 000 for motor cars. With a functioning, safe and efficient public transport network these incidents could be severely limited.
The problem of insufficient public transport can be fixed through a national plan for public transport and the introduction of a cheap and efficient national public transport system. All private transport companies must be nationalised and centralised in one national public company which would use the surplus to lower ticket prices and to modernise the road and transport network.
The nationalised planned economy must be used to massively invest in the national railway system which is in complete shambles and which isolates large parts of the population from the Urban centres. In Capitalism the transport system is only used to serve the narrow immediate purposes of individual producers. But in a socialist society a modern national transportation grid is a means with which to tie the productive and intellectual capacities of the working class closer together and to allow for the evening out of the difference between the cities and the rural areas. The allowing of research, education and production to work closer across the country would also strengthen development by easier pooling together the resources at our disposal.
End nationalism, sexism, racism and xenophobia!
The borders of Africa are completely arbitrary constructs drawn up by the imperialists and colonialists to divide the oppressed and to share the loot between them. Today the nation state is a huge impediment on the development of the productive forces because of capitalist competition and the protection of the ‘’national’’ market by the capitalists. This gives rise to reactionary phenomena such as nationalism. On the other hand, things like racism, sexism and xenophobia are all products of capitalism. The aim in essence is to divide the working class in order to prevent them from fighting a common struggle against the capitalists.
It is the duty of every worker to fight for full equality in economic and other spheres of life regardless of sex, race, ethnicity or religion. In a situation where a minority of the population sits on the enormous wealth and resources of the country discrimination on national, race or gender lines are the expression of the barbaric struggle for the crumbs which the Capitalist think they can afford to concede to the workers and the poor - that is, to those who produce the wealth. As revolutionaries we recognise that the real enemy is the ruling class. The poison of racism and nationalism can only weaken the working classes. Instead of the division of the working class on the basis of tribe, nation, gender or skin colour, we call for a revolutionary struggle by all the oppressed classes against the ruling class.
In the final analysis the fight against all of these ills cannot be separated from the fight against Capitalism. The ANC leaders have long argued for ending racism and nationalism. However, as is evident from countless of statistics, racism is still a major factor in South Africa. This is not a moral problem, but one which arises from the general poverty, want and the struggle for survival in Capitalism. There is only one way to fight against Racism and that is to fight for the conditions which creates it. While the class struggle plays a big factor in uniting the working class across racial and national lines, it is only the complete overthrow of Capitalism and rapid raising of living standards which can eradicate the roots of Racism. Similarly the only way to remove the basis for sexism and gender oppression is by raising living standards removing the economic constraints on the relationships of all individuals.
In a socialist society, there would be no material basis for racism, sexism and nationalism will be because class divisions will begin to disappear. The origins of national oppression and the oppression of women lies in private property. By abolishing private property, Socialism removes the material conditions for national and gender oppression.
Affordable housing for all!
After 1994 the government initially focused on the provision of subsidised housing, first introduced under the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP), commonly known as the RDP Housing program. However housing is still a major problem for large layers of the population. Even those who are lucky to have housing are severely burdened by the extortion prices on rent and mortgages. Unemployment and poverty combined with rapidly rising housing prices has also led to a mushrooming of the informal housing sector, a massive housing backlog and frustration of the poor as a direct consequence to the failure of the formal housing market.
In contrast to this, in Venezuela, there has been a massive increase in the provision of free housing to the workers and the. By nationalising the country’s oil industry, the Venezuelan government was able to build nearly 700 000 good quality houses for the poor which it gave to poor people. The target is to build 3 million houses by 2019. The Great Housing Mission initially started as a project to provide housing for all those made homeless by the heavy rains of 2010 but as a result of the revolution has broadened its scope. Under the programme, low income families receive heavy subsidies from the government to help them pay for their houses, and those living on less than the minimum wage receive their new homes for free.
By using the profit of the mines and the major banks and industries and combining the major construction companies on a national level, the housing situation could be completely changed within a few years and allow all South Africans access to proper housing.
We therefore demand the scrapping of all capitalist measures with regard to the housing crisis. The big construction companies which dominate the industry must be nationalised and be put under the democratic control of the workers and communities and used to build good, quality housing for the working class and the poor. At the same time all unoccupied buildings must be expropriated and used to provide housing and recreational facilities to the people.
Police and armed forces
The state in capitalist society is a machine which is used for the oppression of of the working class by the capitalist class. In essence it is nothing but armed bodies of men in defence of private property. The whole history of South Africa proves this. Under Apartheid, the police and the army were used mercilessly to massacre workers and communities who dared to demand a life without oppression. But under the new bourgeois democratic regime the same has been happening. The most vivid example is the massacre of mineworkers at Marikana on 16 August 2012 when they demanded a living wage of R12 500 per month. This is the cold reality of life in South Africa today. The tops of the police and the armed forces are not under the control of the masses. They are completely tied into the ruling class who does not hesitate to deploy them against workers and poor communities whenever their vital interests are threatened.
But there is a class contradiction between the lower ranking soldiers of the army who generally come from a working class background, and the higher ranking officers who are much closer to the bourgeoisie. In a country like South Africa, many working class people join the police and the army as a means to escape from unemployment. They therefore have the same interests as working people as a whole. The ordinary soldiers are in fact workers in uniform who are also exploited just like workers elsewhere. Because of this, we are in favour of the right of soldiers and police to join a trade union and for the right to strike.
This is not enough though, the police and the armed forces must be used to protect the lives and interests of the ordinary working class people and poor communities, not the bosses and their narrow interests. Therefore control of the police and armed forces must be transferred to the organisations of the working class and subject to the management and control of the working class. All top officials must be elected democratically by the ranks and be subject to recall. At the same time conscription will be reintroduced to secure the army is tied to the working people and does not become an independent entity with its own interests. A fully democratic proletarian army is the only force which will be able to defend the revolution against the attacks of capitalist and imperialist forces.
For an all African Socialist revolution as the first steps of a world socialist revolution!
The working class has no nationality. In Africa the artificial national lines are even more evident from the manner in which they were drawn up by the imperialists. At the same time a socialist economy isolated in one part of Africa would be completely at the mercy of the the Capitalist world market. Therefore a Socialist revolution in South Africa can only be the opening shots of an all-African revolution as the first step towards a world socialist revolution.
Socialism is international or it is nothing. The interests of the working class in South Africa is no different from the interests of the of workers throughout the world. The same exploitation and oppression which takes place in South Africa, takes place throughout the world. As the crisis of world capitalism intensifies, the Capitalist class also intensifies its attacks on the working class in order to protect its profits. This is the reason behind the rising tide of class struggle everywhere. A socialist revolution in South Africa would of course raise the ire of international Capital, but it would find an even mightier ally in the world working class who would rally to its defence.
Marxists are internationalists. We do not limit our organisations to the artificial borders of single nations, but build a world revolutionary organisation for the spreading of the ideas of Marxism and the defence of the interests of the working class everywhere.
For a workers’ revolution!
Capitalism today is in its deepest crisis ever. While all the tools exist to solve all the major problems of humanity, capitalist society is rapidly decaying. On a daily basis the incompetence of the Capitalist class and their political lackeys are exposed in a never ending wave of scandals and internal conflicts. At the same time the much praised “democratic” institutions are exposed as nothing but a figleaf for the cold dictatorship of Capital. The brutal Marikana massacre and the final whitewashing of it by the Farlam commission and by parliament was proof of the real character of the state as nothing but a tool of the ruling class for the defence of private property.
By putting power in the hands of working people and their democratic councils and organisations a Socialist revolution would fundamentally change the character of the state as a means of oppressing the majority, to a means of defending the majority from the attacks of the parasitic Capitalist minority. By making all state officials electable and subject to recall, the unelected state bureaucracy would be replaced with accountable deputies who would receive a wage similar to a normal skilled worker.
In one fell swoop the whole corrupt body of judges, army generals, police commissioners, wardens, principals, and ministerial officials who are never elected by anyone are replaced by an accountable force under the control of the working class as a whole. If they are not willing to abide by the will of the majority, they will be removed by the people who elected them. The ability to recall elected officials would be a complete break with the present culture of politicians who promise anything to get to loot and deceive their electorate for 5 years. Gradually, the tasks of the state would be performed in rotation by all members of society. If everyone are bureaucrats, no one is a bureaucrat.
The Capitalists have proven that they are unable to solve any of the problems facing South African society. While they live luxurious lives in their gated communities, the masses of workers of poor who produce the wealth of the country are witnessing continuing falls in their living standards. While the country is home to enormous riches, some of its most prized infrastructure are falling apart.
By taking over the commanding heights of the economy the South African working class will immediately be able eradicate all unemployment and poverty. At the same time production could be raised to new levels and industrial armies be created to rapidly modernise the whole country.
Combined with the raised living standards the working hours could be lowered to allow for people to engage in the running of society. The artificial divisions between the running of society, production, science, art and culture would disappear as human beings would be able to plan and execute their production to satisfy and support their needs and their development. The development of the individual would condition the development of society and vice versa. Thus, for the first time humanity would be able to raise itself from the barbaric struggle for survival and expand its horizons far beyond its present limitations.
As Marxists we affirm our unshakable faith in the revolutionary proletariat of South Africa to lead all oppressed layers of society out of the nightmare of capitalist crisis. Like Karl Marx, we believe that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself. Only the working class, a class exploited by the bourgeois but also a class created by Capitalism itself, is capable of leading the South African revolution.
All the building blocks for a socialist society exist today, but the ruling class, no matter how doomed it may be, will not give up its privileges without a struggle. The workers have shown time and time again that they are willing to fight against Capitalism and its ills, but they have been let down and betrayed by their leaders. What is needed is a leadership, steeled in the ideas and methods of Marxism, that is capable of uniting all the movements of the workers on a national level and to lead them to their logical conclusion, the expropriation of the Capitalist class.
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If you are interested in these ideas and wish to help build a revolutionary organisation based on these, visit the website South African website of Revolutionary Young Marxists - Revolution.