In the face of multiple crises of profit-driven socio-economic systems that have driven millions of people in Africa into hopeless poverty, the urgent questions of our time are quite clear: How do we change the balance of class forces in favour of the working class? What are the radical reforms around which a program of mass action could be initiated? How do we form mass workers’ parties all over the continent? What about organisations of the jobless, the landless and the homeless, the feminist structures, the youth?
It is a great period to be a revolutionary activist in Africa. Yet the sense of stop-start progress and regress in so many sites of struggle reflects in part how poorly the working-class, poor, progressive middle class, social movements and other democrats have made alliances. The African uprising against neoliberalism hasn’t yet generated a firm ideology. In this case the best strategy would be a critical yet non-dogmatic engagment with the various emerging forces on the left.
The labour movement is at a crossroads, as the country grapples with a major political crisis rooted in capitalism. This requires the labour movement to re-evaluates past strategies and seriously considers a new politics that grapples with issues of top-down, patriarchal forms of organisation, and forges broad counter-hegemonic alliances that question economic growth paradigms which threaten the planet.
The demise of COSATU, the failure of the “NUMSA moment” and the emergence of a new movement Leonard Gentle With the claims that a new trade union federation will be launched in March 2017, it is appropriate to draw up a balance sheet of the labour movement in South Africa, and ask whether the optimism of many that a new Left force is going to be unleashed is justified. Or whether the possibilities for a force of revolutionary working class politics lie elsewhere.
South African unions are large but fragmented, substantial but politically weak. They represent different political traditions and all are marked by serious organisational problems. They have little impact on the official public sphere. The unions need to work towards realizing a stateless, classless, self-managed society without hierarchy, based on political pluralism and freedom.
This critique is offered for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) as food for thought towards unlocking Numsa’s historical task that presents possibilities for unifying the working class in struggle, increasing its confidence and steering us towards socialist revolution.
Transition to a liberal democracy has seen no change. Resistance to apartheid has morphed into resistance to neoliberalism. Ongoing crises in healthcare and service delivery, runaway corruption, continued debasement of education, an inability to meet housing needs, out-of-control crime and high unemployment all speak to the intolerable conditions that have worsened since 1994. It is no exaggeration to say that South Africa is ripe for revolution.
The Nigerian labour movement is fragmented and ideologically incoherent. Most people suffer poverty under capitalism, but socialism does not appear as an immediate realistic alternative. As a result, especially in the southern half of the country, churches, both traditional and revivalist, have a huge following, providing hope for many in the next life, if not in this.
The fundamental question confronting the Zimbabwean working class and socialist movement today is leadership. Under the pressure of a growing crisis, with socialist intervention, will rank-and-file union activists break through the suffocating grip of the old union bureaucracy? Can the post-independence generation, which is educated, casualised and extremely militant, create its own leadership and mobilise other sections of the oppressed, joining such struggles with other struggles in the region?
Mauritius is being, and will continue to be, seriously hit by economic crisis, perhaps more than other countries, because as a nation, Mauritius was invented by an emerging capitalist system that populated it though successive waves of Dutch, French and British colonisation and the slave trade. Luckily, the working class has always been hard for the capitalists to control. It is rebellious.
Unions have historically been important agents of socio-political change in Congo. But today, the rights of workers are increasingly violated in the context of the current economic crisis. Fearing repression, some union leaders submit to the political party in power in the hope of collecting short-term dividends.
Since independence, Namibian trade unions have failed to mount a coherent challenge to the market-driven economic policies embraced by the ruling party despite its socialist rhetoric. The labour movement needs to build a counter-hegemony, which requires a new form of social movement unionism through which working-class interests could be articulated beyond the point of production, in alliance with other socially excluded groups.
It was the first significant strike by working people since Namibia’s political independence. The strike threw the government into a panic, showing clearly that resistance still exists among the working people. But poor organization, fragmentation of the union movement and a self-interested leadership were major setbacks.
The right to work remains a challenge for labor groups in Africa because of constant economic instabilities, the severe impact of globalization and unfavorable rapport between the countries of the North and the global South. However, as the case of the SYNARES exemplifies, labor organizations in Africa have embarked on a new direction since the end of the Cold War. They have multiplied and defended their workers’ rights a lot more rigorously.
Location: Johannesburg Closing date: 19 February 2017
Crisis Action is a global NGO which works with individuals and organisations from civil society to protect civilians from armed conflict. It is currently seeking candidates for the position of South Africa Director based in Johannesburg. For more information and to apply go to: https://crisisaction.org/opportunities/
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Henry Makori and Tidiane Kasse - Editors, Pambazuka News