Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

South Africa: New workers party begins to take shape

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In late January, more than 50 representatives from miners’ strike committees, community groups, trade unions and left political organisations met at the invitation of the Democratic Socialist Movement (the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in South Africa).

The agenda of the meeting was the development of the new Workers & Socialist Party (WASP) in the build up to its formal launch on March 21 – Sharpeville Day.

Weizmann Hamilton from the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) outlined how WASP had been born out of a meeting on December 15 last year between miners’ strike committees – thrown up by the workers in the course of the unrest in the mining sector last year – and the DSM.

Hamilton explained that the Marikana massacre, where 34 workers were slaughtered by the police, had been a watershed and that the gap between the masses and the ANC government and their allies was now unbridgeable. As such, a political alternative for workers, communities and youth across the country is desperately needed. WASP represents the beginning of that process.

The meeting unanimously endorsed this perspective, reaffirmed the launch date for WASP, and agreed a target of one million signatures in support of WASP by the one year anniversary of Marikana on August 16. The meeting also formed an interim working group made up of delegates from the supporting organisations of WASP to begin developing a manifesto and spreading the idea far-and-wide in the run up to the launch.

Excerpt from the strike committee resolution for a mass workers party on socialist programme.

“The events of August 16, when 34 workers were slaughtered in the worst massacre since Sharpeville, by the police of the democratically elected ANC government, has drawn, in the blood of the martyrs of Marikana, the clearest lines between the classes — between the bosses and the workers.

“On the one side we have the working class and our allies, communities fighting for decent basic services and against corruption as well as working class students fighting against exclusion from tertiary education because of debt and unaffordable fees. On the other side are the bosses, their government, and the state, assisted, unfortunately, by the leadership of the trade unions including Cosatu.

“One of the most important lessons of Marikana is that, as the working class, we may have the right to vote, but we are politically disenfranchised. The increases demanded by the Lonmin workers were not unaffordable. The bosses, the government and the police were united in their determination to crush the strike for political reasons—because, on behalf of all workers, we rose up against the entire system of capitalist exploitation and the institutions that enforce it.

“We had to be slaughtered because we wanted to put an end to our exploitation. In refusing to continue to be slaves, we were challenging the entire basis for the social and political order agreed at Codesa — that in exchange for the right to vote, we would agree to continue to be slaves, governed by the capitalist ANC government and policed by the trade union leaders.

“It is time we, organised workers, working class communities and students came together united in struggle against capitalism on the basis of a socialist programme, against the bosses and their government, around common demands and one programme of action.

“We call upon the working class as a whole to unite its forces under the banner of the new Workers and Socialist Party to engage in this class war that has been declared by the bosses and their government in a fight to the finish until poverty, slave wages, exploitation and oppression have been eradicated.”

By CWI reporters

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