Dale McKinley's SACP expulsion

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at SPAMgreenleft.org.au
Wed Aug 16 19:55:11 MDT 2000

Dale McKinley's expulsion from the SACP

Dale McKinley's articles written for the Australian radical newspaper Green Left
Weekly (http://www.greenleft.org.au) formed much of the basis for his recent expulsion
from the SACP.

Below is the main GLW article for which he was charged.

The following article appeared in Green Left Weekly #405, May 17, 2000
(http://jinx.sistm.unsw.edu.au/~greenlft/2000/405/405p22.htm), Australia's leading
left newspaper.


SOUTH AFRICA: Misdirected strategy weakens workers' movement

JOHANNESBURG - The broad left (both in South Africa and internationally) has taken a
cautious approach to critically analysing the program and activities of South Africa's
largest and most progressive trade union federation, the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU), since 1994. However, the time has come to acknowledge that
COSATU is rapidly losing its political direction.

A large portion of the leadership of COSATU (and its affiliates) are well on their way
to becoming bona fide members of the "capitalism with a human face" club, and in the
process are laying the groundwork for a fragmented and dispirited workers' movement.

This ideological shift lies in the leadership's acceptance of two related assumptions:

(i) that capitalism's new round of global accumulation (through more sophisticated
forms of imperial domination) means that the core role and character of unions has
changed. It is becoming commonplace to hear COSATU leaders argue that, due to the
"hegemony of capitalism" and "new global realities", trade unions must fundamentally
alter their strategic vision in order to remain "relevant". In other words: "If you
can't beat them, join them"; and

(ii) that the April 1994 democratic breakthrough signalled that the days of unions
placing the active political struggle for socialism at the top of the agenda are over,
or at the very least, must take deep cover in the bowels of an ongoing "national
democratic revolution".


Tied to this are political tactics adopted by the COSATU leadership to win concessions
from its "partner" in the tripartite alliance, the governing African National Congress
(the tripartite alliance brings together COSATU, the ANC and the SACP - the South
African Communist Party), that consistently water down the demands being made.

Ostensibly, this approach is designed to ensure an acceptable degree of ideological
and organisational continuity with the ANC leadership, so as to maintain the "national
democratic alliance" that is seen as the only viable political/organisational vehicle
that can meet the needs of the workers and poor.

These tactics, while bringing some moderate relief for the majority, are more a means
of preserving and advancing the personal careers and political futures of leaders
across the alliance spectrum.

While it makes radical-sounding statements on worker-related and political economy
issues and conducts limited mass actions designed to extract concessions and remind
capital of the power of workers, the COSATU leadership has been unwilling to draw the
organisational and class lessons from being in an alliance dominated by a ruling party
pursuing a capitalist path.

These tactics have been sold to the workers' movement with the constant argument that
"unity" within the alliance must be maintained. This is counter-posed to the dangers
that could arise if an independent, socialist workers' movement and political
organisation should break this "unity", and thus weaken the "liberation movement".

Again, the reality is far different. The unity that the ANC leadership has fashioned
(and which the leadership of COSATU and the SACP have bought into) revolves around a
mass of radical-sounding rhetoric about "transformation", "a progressive national
democratic revolution", "a developmental state" and the "national interest".

The ANC-led government is using the space created by this rhetoric to further entrench
capitalist relations of production and distribution. At the same time, those
questioning the substance behind the rhetoric - or taking action to oppose the ANC
government's political direction - are politically attacked and isolated. The result
is that organised workers are left in a state of political and organisational
confusion as to where their class interests lie.

The leadership of COSATU places all the blame for the social and economic ills being
suffered by workers on the finance and industrial capitalists - without also admitting
that the class agenda being pushed by the ANC government is wholly consistent with,
and facilitates, the capitalists' attacks on workers.

COSATU leaders are unwilling to see the South African state for what it is - an
instrument of capitalist class rule administered by the ANC - and instead have become
enmeshed by the ANC's appeals for a "patriotic" multi-class front that will take
forward the ill defined tasks of the national democratic alliance.

Focus on process

A good example of the practical effect of this strategic and tactical confusion is the
character of COSATU's (and the SACP's) opposition to the ANC's neo-liberal economic
policy, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution program (GEAR). Despite all its
criticisms of GEAR, COSATU's opposition has been fragmented and selective. It has
failed to tackle GEAR on the political terrain that provides its raison d'etre.

COSATU has instead focussed on the "non-inclusive" process that formulated GEAR and
has appealed for this or that component of GEAR to be retooled in the hope that a more
progressive outcome will result. It is a hopelessly economistic approach that seeks to
pick and choose different aspects of an overall macro-economic framework without
tackling the class politics that provides the foundation for GEAR.

Arising from this self-induced conundrum, an even more disturbing notion has arisen
among COSATU and SACP leaders - that the present situation demands a "creative
management of contradictions". Translated, this means that the political and economic
framework formulated and driven by the ANC leadership has to be accepted and that the
role of organised workers is to squeeze as much from this "contradictory process" as

This leaves the mass of workers on the political sidelines, waiting to be lined up to
resolve this or that particular "contradiction" being "fought out" amongst the various
layers of leadership inside and outside government. This seriously weakens the basic
class weapon of workers - the withholding of their labour power - by converting it
from a political weapon to force the ANC government and the capitalists to back down,
and to create real space for increased workers' power, democracy and the struggle for
socialism, to something to be turned on or off.

COSATU-aligned investment companies have also revealed the serious and unmanageable
contradictions that have arisen as a result of COSATU's understanding of the tasks
facing the working class. These companies have adopted a position that sees the
private accumulation of capital as a genuine means to empower workers through
capitalist ownership and influence in the economy. The political contradictions that
have subsequently arisen are obvious. Again, COSATU leaders argue that the best that
can be done is to "manage" such contradictions.

Another recent example was COSATU's response to the mass firing of 3000 miners
employed at Canadian-owned mining company, Placer Dome. COSATU-affiliated National
Union of Mineworkers made loud noises about the immorality of capitalism and the greed
of the bosses. Soon after, the NUM struck a deal with the company to re-employ 200
workers (with a promise of a few hundred more to be rehired over the next year or so)
who will have to work continuous or full calendar shifts.

Incredibly, this was hailed as a victory for the working class. NUM general secretary
Gwede Mantashe was quoted as saying that "we need to work together to be successful"
and that "this agreement demonstrates what can be achieved when a company and a union
engage one another in a robust, open and constructive manner (that) holds promise of
expanding job opportunities".

Rhetorical demands

COSATU's current nationwide mass action campaign against job losses reveals the
serious weaknesses inherent in the strategy of the COSATU leadership. A series of
marches and one-day work stoppages - culminating in a national stoppage on May 10 (see
article on page 10) - have been aimed at cajoling the capitalists and the ANC
government into a change of heart but have done little to fundamentally contest the
macro-economic framework underlying the attack on jobs.

COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has said, "COSATU demands that business
create quality jobs and brings an end to casualisation and outsourcing". Vavi has
"urged" the government to honour its commitments in the National Framework Agreement
(an agreement that requires negotiations before state assets are "restructured", i.e.,
readied for privatisation).

The COSATU leadership has been quoted as saying that "unless government and business
meet our demands, we will go ahead with the national strike [on May 10]". And yet,
there is little indication that rank-and-file workers (or the leadership for that
matter) have a clear understanding of the practical means required to achieve COSATU's
rhetorical "demands", or of what the COSATU leadership intends to do beyond organising
a managed show of workers' power on the streets that can be easily ridden out by the
state and capital.

Unless COSATU is willing to lead its members in a politically informed class battle to
change fundamental policies and restore its organisational accountability (by ending
its subservience to the ANC leadership), its "demands" will remain pleas with no force.

In South Africa, just as in the rest of the capitalist world, the reality of the
content (if not the form) of class oppression and ownership has not changed in a
substantive way. The underlying political and economic assumptions and the strategy
and tactics chosen by the COSATU leadership are a great deal more "unrealistic" than
alternative socialist strategies and tactics grounded in an overt political trade
unionism, linked to the realities and necessities of the working class struggle.

While aspects of the "objective conditions" under which the South African workers'
movement now finds itself have changed, the fundamental political and economic
challenges have not. As long as private ownership of the means of production
(capitalism) creates the necessity for workers' collective organisation (i.e., to end
the exploitative relationship between wage labour and capital), so too will it be
necessary for the working class to struggle to take economic and political power. Some
of us still call it socialism.


[Dale McKinley is chairperson of the South African Communist Party's Johannesburg
Central branch. This article reflects his personal opinion.]

May 17, 2000


Other recent GLW articles by Dale can be found at:

ZIMBABWE: Uninformed `solidarity'  (#404 May 10, 2000)

ANC leadership's class agenda (#392 February 9, 2000)

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