29 October 2007

Back to the Future

The Alliance Pact proposal is that government will carry out ready-made policies prepared by labour. Deployees to government will be kept to a mandate and be subject to a right of recall. Deployments to Cabinet and Provincial and Local government will be determined by an “Alliance deployment committee”. This Alliance Pact concept is outlined by COSATU in the CC discussion document called “Framework for an Alliance Government and Elections Pact”, published prior to the CC of COSATU held in September, where it was adopted and further elaborated in three CC Resolutions (linked below).

Let us here note something that Joe Slovo wrote in the “
SA Working Class and the NDR”:

“The very fact that the workers’ economic struggle cannot be separated from the struggle against national domination has helped to blur the border-line between trade unionism and the political leadership of the working class as a whole. It is, however, vital to maintain the distinction between trade union politics and overall revolutionary leadership. A trade union cannot carry out this dual role; if it attempted to do so it would have to change its basic character and risk committing suicide as a mass legal force. In addition, the very nature and purpose of trade unionism disqualifies it from carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary vanguard. The most basic purpose of a trade union - to force genuine reforms in the work situation within the existing economic framework - tends generally to nurture reformist rather than revolutionary political tendencies. (Joe Slovo, 1988).”

In that case, where is the SACP in all this Pact business? The SACP’s position is outlined in its resolution on State Power (linked below). It describes something similar, if not identical, to the position later adopted by the COSATU CC. But in addition, it offers an alternative to the electoral side of the pact, namely a separate electoral list for the SACP and a post-election coalition between the SACP and the ANC.

In the previous post, we problematised the relation between the underlying, and necessary, and necessarily explicit, class alliance of workers, peasants and petty-bourgeoisie, and the institutional superstructure that this mass-level alliance gives rise to. In the first place this alliance exists as the ANC. Then by taking the ANC as an autonomous unit, a Tripartite Alliance is has been constructed (with mixed results for the other partners but with resounding benefit to the ANC’s electoral fortunes). Now, on top of that again, we may construct a third layer of superstructure, which is the Alliance Pact, with an implied standing bureaucracy and establishment.

It looks like we will have the popular alliance on the ground (existing as popular solidarity and expressing itself from time to time as concerted mass action); then the ANC; then a super-ANC (the Tripartite Alliance); and finally a super-super-ANC (the Alliance Pact). Each of these layers of superstructure, although distinct, is at the same time a reproduction, or carbon copy, of the one below it. Is this a fair assessment?

Let us look at the matter again from a different angle. Trade unionists know that no deal can be imposed. A proposal will have to be negotiated, and any resulting Pact will be the product of the interests of both sides in such a negotiation. If a Pact is to be negotiated with the ANC, then who at that moment will the ANC be speaking for? The ANC is the vehicle for a class alliance in which the working class is the leading part. Will COSATU then be negotiating with itself? Or will the ANC, for the purposes of the Pact negotiations, be representing the bourgeoisie at that moment? Or will the ANC be negotiating for the interests of its national and other elected office bearers and officials of the day? Or will the ANC be negotiating on behalf of the State in general, or of the government in particular?

In these ways the Alliance Pact, both during its negotiation phase and during its actual existence, could become like a tangled ball of string, wherein it becomes impossible to find the source of any strand. Instead of authority and lines of responsibility becoming clearer, the reverse could be the case.

To assist us in understanding this phase of our politics, the Communist University will tomorrow (at 17h00, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein) return to the fundamental nature of the state as expounded by V I Lenin in his 1919 lecture “
The State” (supplemented, if comrades wish, by Engels’ chapter called “Barbarism and Civilisation”). The following week we will examine Blade Nzimande’s and Jeremy Cronin’s 1997 AC article “Transformation, not a Balancing Act”.

COSATU GS Zwelizima Vavi has laid out COSATU’s stall a bit more succinctly than before during a speech to SAMWU’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. Yet, in another speech, he has stated that if Thabo Mbeki wins a third term as ANC President, then the Tripartite Alliance “will not survive”. What this wild prophecy (or is it a threat?) of Vavi’s is supposed to mean is still open to conjecture. Jacob Zuma (pictured above) has also begun to set out his stall in more detail than before. See the links below.

Click on these links:

COSATU 4th Central Committee Abridged Booklet (4665 words)

SACP 12th Congress Resolutions (7110 words)

Zwelinzima Vavi, Address to SAMWU 20th Anniversary rally (2480 words)

Vavi - Alliance will not survive if Mbeki re-elected, Harper, S Times (530 words)

Zuma moves to quell ‘succession jitters’, Paddy Harper, Sunday Times (575 words)

Coming Events (Index page on Communist University Google Group web site)


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