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South Africa: The ANC victory, WASP and the EFF
Weizman Hamilton, General Secretary of WASP
The African National Congress (ANC) has been re-elected with 62% of the vote. This represents a marginal decline of 3.5% on 2009. Given the scandal-filled term of president Zuma, not least of all the Marikana massacre of miners and 'Nkandla-gate' (the lavish state funding of his palatial residence), ANC strategists must nevertheless be breathing a sigh of relief.
However, it hides the reality that the ANC has continued to shed significant support. Sixteen million did not take part in this election. The corresponding figures in 2004 and 2009 were 12 million and 12.4 million respectively.
The ANC belatedly realised that their dominance could not be taken for granted. And its election machine was put into a high gear.
While there has been no widespread or outright corruption, that does not mean the ANC has 'played fair' in this election campaign. The ANC intentionally conflates its role as a political party and their control of the government social services apparatus.
There was a large increase in the budget for food parcels to the poorest in the months running up the election, the recipients of which were of course told it was a gift from the ANC not that it was paid for by taxpayers' money.
The 12 million people in receipt of social grants - pensions, disability payments and childcare - are regularly told that it is paid to them 'by the ANC'. Even more outrageously, the lie that the hated racist segregation system of apartheid would be brought back should the ANC lose was propagated.
ANC - capitalist funding
Further, the ANC's patronage network was been deployed to full effect. The state broadcaster SABC pulled two TV commercials by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) at the last minute on the spurious grounds that they would "incite violence".
In South Africa, vast sums of money are spent on elections yet there are no rules on the disclosure of party finances. We can safely assume that significant sections of the capitalist class poured huge sums into the ANC's campaign.
The ANC leadership is in reality an executive committee of the new black capitalist class. On the ANC National Executive Committee, over 50% of its members are company directors and one-third are directors of more than one company, with over one in ten holding five directorships or more. Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy-president of the ANC, has wealth estimated at over R6 billion.
Against this behemoth, the Workers And Socialist Party (WASP) embraced the enormous challenge of organising a general election campaign before we had even reached our first anniversary. We are of course disappointed in the low vote, which was below our expectations. We received a little over 8,000 votes (0.05%).
However, the low vote cannot erase the enormous strides that WASP has taken in its short existence in establishing key points of support among the working class. We have already received phone calls from mineworker shop stewards and factory workers reassuring the WASP leadership and encouraging them to continue the task of building 'our' party.
The scarcity of resources for the campaign was a fundamental problem. The struggle to raise the finances to pay the enormous election deposits meant that we spent over a month without a cent as we launched the second phase of fundraising for election material and a campaign fund.
In addition, early in the year, the media decided on their narrative - this election was a three-horse race between the ANC, DA and EFF. WASP was in reality excluded from serious press coverage.
But there are other important political factors to take account of. Unfortunately, WASP has not been able to consolidate its position among the mineworkers. Despite the crucial role of the founders of WASP - the Democratic Socialist Movement (the Socialist Party's sister party in the CWI) - in the move of the majority of mineworkers from the treacherous ANC aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to the previously marginal Association of Mining and Construction Workers (AMCU), the AMCU leadership has done everything to remove the DSM's influence among the mineworkers.
DSM and WASP members and supporters have been victimised and expelled from the union, frequently leading to the loss of their jobs. The new Workers Association Union (WAU) has attempted to take advantage of demoralisation among sections of the mineworkers in what is now a three month long wage strike in the platinum sector.
The lie has been spread by the AMCU leadership, disgracefully encouraged by tiny jealous forces on 'the left', that WASP is behind this scab union. Thus, WASP found it very hard to even campaign on the platinum belt, with some comrades even facing death threats.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), after taking the bold and historic decision in December at a special congress not to campaign for the ANC, unfortunately, failed to develop the position into a positive alternative beyond the promise to found a workers' party by 2016.
Lack of a clear position
For months WASP campaigned to persuade the Numsa leadership not to miss the historic opportunity that the 2014 elections presented for the establishment of a bridgehead for genuine socialism by trying to secure a handful of seats in parliament.
We invited Numsa to take its place in the leadership of WASP, for Numsa to present its own candidates for WASP's election lists and pointed out that this would in fact compliment the democratic decisions of Numsa members at the special national congress. Unfortunately the Numsa leadership did not take up our offer.
The lack of a clear call on who to support in this election had an impact on the wider Numsa membership.
The Numsa leadership's position was used by the rest of the South African left as an excuse not to back WASP under the cover of 'supporting Numsa'.
Finally, WASP had serious competition in the form of the Economic Freedom Fighters. The EFF has done quite well and won over a million votes which will translate into nearly 30 MPs not to mention a similar number of MPLs at provincial level.
This left-populist party, standing on a left programme of nationalisation and land expropriation made an appeal to the youth and the poor. Its leader, Julius Malema, expelled former leader of the ANC's youth league, was able to take significant sections of the youth league with him, not to mention connections to the new black elite that years inside the ANC provided, giving the EFF the resources necessary to wage an effective campaign.
Last August there were discussions between WASP and the EFF where we proposed forming an electoral bloc.
However, important differences between WASP and EFF on nationalisation, socialism and other issues required that we maintain the right to debate these questions in front of the working class and poor.
In the wake of the Marikana massacre, assisting the working class in achieving political clarity on the tasks necessary for the socialist transformation of society was fundamental.
Numsa, for example, explicitly rejected the EFF at their December special congress due to the EFF's failure to call for workers' control of nationalised industry and their equivocation on the need for socialism.
New workers' party
Unfortunately, the EFF rejected our proposal of an electoral bloc/alliance and demanded the effective liquidation of WASP and closing down of discussion on programmatic and political questions. WASP had no other choice but to stand independently following this response from the EFF leadership.
Though we were unable to fill the vacuum to the left of the ANC, the Workers And Socialist Party reaffirms that we were correct to stand in this election. We have played a pioneering role and laid important foundations for the development of a mass workers' party on a socialist programme. This process will continue and pick up its pace in the next period.
WASP is first and foremost a party of struggle, and a step towards building a mass workers' party. We will now turn our attention to campaigning for a mass workers' party, the uniting of the service delivery protests and the building of a mighty socialist youth movement.
The ANC majority in this election is not the end of the process. It means more neoliberal attacks and class struggle in which WASP will intervene, and the necessity to build a mass workers' party on a socialist programme will be ever more clearly posed.
- See socialistworld.net for the full version of this article
In The Socialist 14 May 2014:
Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns