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South Africa: First national Conference of the Democratic Left called

A call to the 1st national Conference of the Democratic Left

Unite to make Another South Africa and World possible!

A call for united anti-capitalist action and for democratic left politics

Issued by the Interim Steering Committee of the Conference of the Democratic Left 

December 7, 2010 -- This is a call to social movements, trade unions, other progressive mass organisations, progressive civil society organisations, left forces and supportive individuals committed to an anti-capitalist politics to come together in unity and action in the 1st national Conference of the Democratic Left (CDL), a conference against capitalism and for democratic left politics.

Through this conference, the momentum of the two-year old CDL process is reaching an important milestone. The conference will take place as follows:

Date: 13h00 on Thursday, January 20, 2011, ending 13h00 on Sunday, January 23, 2011.

Venue: Wits University, Johannesburg.

South Africa: ANC leaders attack COSATU

By John Haylett

November 5, 2010 -- Morning Star -- Relations between the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and sections of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) plumbed new depths this week following a union-initiated Civil Society conference.

The October 27 conference was organised by COSATU and human rights bodies Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). More than 50 independent organisations took part, debating how to encourage community-based activism to achieve social justice and improve poor people's lives. [Read the declaration of the civil society conference. Read Zwelimzima Vavi's speech to the conference.]

So far so uncontroversial, but the organisers had agreed to make the conference non-party political, which meant that neither the ANC nor the South African Communist Party (SACP) were invited to take part.

South Africa: What would Chris Hani say today?

Chris Hani.

"Being a staunch believer in the dictum that the masses are the makers of history, Chris Hani would urge all of us to push the workers' wagon forward. He would warn that without mass power, we must all forget about liberating ourselves from the shackles of capitalism and apartheid. I want to be like Chris Hani! Let all of us be inspired by his examples and deeds that need to be emulated."

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture by Zwelinzima Vavi, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary, delivered in Queenstown, October 23, 2010

I am extremely honoured by your invitation to deliver the Chris Hani memorial lecture here in Queenstown today. It was over fifteen years ago, on April 10, 1993, when "Chris" Martin Thembisile Hani was cruelly taken from us by an assassin's bullet. We remember too all the other heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle whom we lost in the month of April, including Solomon Mahlangu and Oliver Tambo.

Chris Hani's story and my own interaction with him after his return from exile have inspired me and millions of others. He remains a shining example of what we mean when we talk about an authentic, genuine, true revolutionary leader. He is the best embodiment of the finest traditions and principles of our liberation movement.

South African splinters: From `elite transition' to `small-a alliances'

"The [ANC-SACP-COSATU] Alliance has stuck together through thick and thin for two decades, and is likely to outlast this latest conflagration for at least a few more years."

[The following article first appeared in AfricaFile's At Issue Ezine, vol. 12 (May-October 2010), edited by John S. Saul, which examines the development of the southern African liberation movement-led countries. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

By Patrick Bond

South Africa: Communist youth leader -- `Black economic empowerment becomes Zuma economic empowerment'

By David Masondo, Young Communist League chairperson

September 5, 2010 -- City Press -- There was cautious optimism among many leftists in the African National Congress (ANC) that the ousting of Thabo Mbeki in Polokwane [the ANC's 2007 national conference] might mark a shift towards a much more egalitarian economic policy, including "Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Instead, BEE is increasingly becoming too narrow, amounting to ZEE – that is, Zuma Economic Empowerment.

The recent ­multibillion-rand Arcelor-Mittal BEE deal involving Duduzane, President Jacob ­Zuma’s son, is another example of how BEE has become too narrow.

To crown it all, the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, seems to have suddenly become an African imperialist, amassing oil resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Africa: Strike ends, workers' anger remains

* * * STOP PRESS* * *

On September 6, the major trade unions representing South Africa's 1.3 million public servants and teachers announced that the 20-day strike for higher wages and allowances had been "suspended". See union statements below. Union leaders said the move would allow members to consider the latest government offer. Public servants went on strike demanding an 8.6% pay rise, while the government has offered 7.5%. According to the BBC, workers who came to hear union officials shouted in protest when they announced that the strike was being suspended. Meanwhile, workers in many other industries are taking or threatening industrial action.

* * *

By Terry Bell, Cape Town

South Africa: COSATU's Zwelinzima Vavi's Ruth First Memorial Lecture

Ruth First with Joe Slovo (left).

Zwelinzima Vavi presents the 2010 Ruth First Memorial Lecture, Wits University, Johannesburg, August 17, 2010. Vavi is secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Ruth First  (May 4, 1925–August 17, 1982) was a South African anti-apartheid activist and communist born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was killed by the apartheid regime with a parcel bomb in Mozambique in 1982, where she worked in exile from South Africa.

* * *

I will always cherish this moment. It is such an honour to deliver the annual lecture in memory of Ruth First.

The theme is "How policy is affecting the marginalised and its impact on poverty".

As we recall the immense contribution of Ruth First to our struggle, let me begin with a quote from Karl Marx, which describes Ruth First's life. In a letter to his father in 1837, Karl Marx says: "If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people".

South Africa loses its ‘War on Poverty’

By Patrick Bond, Durban

August 6, 2010 – Shortly before Pretoria’s presidential power change from Thabo Mbeki to Jacob Zuma two years ago, the South African state announced its War on Poverty. What news from the front, in the immediate wake of World Cup host duties that showed observers how very pleasant life is for the rich and middle class here?

We don’t know, because the War on Poverty is one of the most clandestine operations in South African history, with status reports kept confidential by a floundering army in rapid retreat from the poor, who are estimated at half the society.

Initially the War on Poverty appeared as a major national project. Early hubris characterised the war, as happens in most, with victory claimed even before Mbeki officially launched it in his February 2008 State of the Nation speech.

South Africa: FIFA forbids free speech at World Cup

FIFA's attempts to silence anti-xenophobia activists hits the headlines in Durban.

By Patrick Bond

July 7, 2010 -- Acting against our alleged "ambush marketing" and "incitement" (sic), the South African Police Service, newly augmented with 40,000 additional cadre for the World Cup, detained several of us here in Durban last weekend. We were simply exercising freedom of expression at our favourite local venue, the South Beach Fan Fest, whose half-million visitors is a record.

Wearing hidden microphones so as to tape discussions with police leadership, what we learned was chilling, for they have received orders from Durban city manager Mike Sutcliffe that the property rights of the world soccer body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), overrule our foundational constitutional rights.

“We can charge you and detain you until the 11th of July, [when] FIFA is over!”, a top officer shouted at me during my second interrogation, on Saturday, July 3.

Film: `A Place in the City' -- A world class city for whom? World Cup tourists and the rich, or the poor majority?

July 7, 2010 -- Abahlali baseMjondolo -- Sixteen years since apartheid ended, and amid the hoopla and false hopes promoted by the 2010 soccer World Cup, millions of black South Africans still live in self-built shacks – without sanitation, adequate water supplies or electricity. In Durban, almost in the shadow of the massive multibillion-rand Moses Mabhida stadium [paradoxically named after a veteran leader of South Africa's Communist Party], poor people are fighting for their right to live near work, schools and health facilities.

South Africa: FIFA, not migrants, are the real tsotsis

By Patrick Bond, Durban

June 25, 2010 -- South Africa's soccer-loving critics have long predicted the problems now growing worse here because of its World Cup hosting duties:

  • loss of large chunks of government’s sovereignty to the world soccer body FIFA;
  • rapidly worsening income inequality;
  • future economic calamities as debt payments come due;
  • dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions (more than twice Germany’s in 2006); and
  • humiliation and despondency as the country’s soccer team Bafana Bafana (ranked #90 going into the games) became the first host to expire before the competition’s second round.

Soon, it seems, we may also add to this list a problem that terrifies progressives here and everywhere: another dose of xenophobia from both state and society.

The crucial question in coming weeks is whether, instead of offering some kind of resistance from below, as exemplified by the Durban Social Forum network’s 1000-strong rally against FIFA on June 16 at City Hall, Durban, will society’s sore losers adopt right-wing populist sentiments, and frame the foreigner?

World Cup in South Africa: Six red cards for FIFA


Democracy Now! June 11, 2010 -- Raj Patel on how South Africa has cracked down on the poor and the shack dwellers’ movement ahead of the World Cup. Read the full transcript HERE.

[See also ``2010 World Cup: Africa's turn or turning on Africa? A political economy of FIFA's African adventure''.]

By Patrick Bond, Durban

June 11, 2010 -- The soccer World Cup began this weekend here in South Africa, with the home team playing a 1-1 draw with Mexico before 95,000 fans at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium.
Regardless of whether South Africa’s Bafana Bafana (our boys), ranked #90 in the world, can survive its next matches against France and Uruguay to advance a round, we know this society is already a big loser. The reason: egregious mistakes made by national and municipal governments, apparently under the thumb of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

A barrage of flag-waving, vuvuzela-blowing hypernationalist publicity cannot drown out at least six critiques of the World Cup:

1) dubious priorities and overspending;

2) FIFA super profits and political corruption;

3) heightened foreign debt and imports amidst generalised economic hardships;

The legacy of anti-colonial struggles in Southern Africa: Liberation movements as governments

SWAPO's Sam Nujoma.

By Henning Melber

This paper explores some aspects of the narrow translation of a liberation movement -- an agency of transformation -- into an exclusivist apparatus claiming to represent the interest of all people and a total monopoly in advocating the public interest. It thereby tries to explain to some extent the dominant party syndrome under liberation movements, which have been in power since Independence.[1]

Neville Alexander: South Africa – An unfinished revolution?

Neville Alexander.

[The following address -- the fourth Strini Moodley Annual Memorial Lecture, held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on May 13, 2010 – was delivered by renowned South African revolutionary socialist and theorist Neville Alexander. From 1964 to 1974 he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Strinivasa Rajoo "Strini" Moodley (December 22, 1945–April 27, 2006) was a founding member of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. In 1976, he was convicted of terrorism in a trial involving members of the South African Students' Organisation and the Black People's Convention, and imprisoned on Robben Island. The speech is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Neville Alexander’s permission.]

South Africa: Will the World Cup party be worth the hangover?

Construction workers protest outside the new Soccer City Stadium near Soweto.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

May 15, 2010 -- On June 11, South Africans start joling [jol -- to have fun, to party] like no time since liberation in April 1994, and of course it is a huge honour for our young democracy to host the most important sporting spectacle short of the Olympics. All the ordinary people who have worked so hard in preparation deserve gratitude and support, especially the construction workers, cleaners, municipal staff, health-care givers and volunteers who will not receive due recognition.

Southern Africa: The liberation struggle continues

[The following is the editorial in the latest edition of AfricaFile's At Issue Ezine, vol. 12 (May-October 2010), which examines the development of the southern African liberation movement-led countries. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

By John S. Saul

South Africa's poor to pay for dirty World Bank loan

By Patrick Bond, Durban

April 14, 2010 -- Just how dangerous is the World Bank and its neo-conservative president Robert Zoellick to South Africa and the global climate? Notwithstanding South Africa's existing US$75 billion foreign debt, on April 8 the bank added a $3.75 billion loan to South Africa's electricty utility Eskom for the primary purpose of building the world's fourth-largest coal-fired power plant, at Medupi. It will spew 25 million tons of the climate pollutant carbon dioxide into the air each year. [For more background go to http://links.org.au/node/1570.]

South Africa's finance minister Pravin Gordhan has repeatedly said that this is theWorld Bank's "first" post-apartheid loan, yet the bank's 1999 and 2008 Country Assistance Strategy documents show conclusively that Medupi is the 15th credit since 1994.

Conference of the Democratic Left: Unite to make another South Africa and world possible!

The following call was issued by the Conference of the Democratic Left, a left unity project in South Africa. It first appeared at the Conference of the Democratic Left web site.

* * *

A call to a national people’s conference against capitalism and for democratic left politics

A Call for united anti-capitalist action …

This is a call to come together in unity in a Conference Against Capitalism and for Democratic Left Politics.

1.   The world is in crisis

Global capitalism threatens our world with disaster. If it is left to plunder the natural resources of our planet and pollute the atmosphere, the oceans and the soil, life itself will be under grave threat.

Fatima Meer, 1928-2010: `Regardless of how many years we have spent in this life, we must get up and shout'

In January 2000 Fatima Meer enraged ANC leaders by opposing the eviction of destitute families from council flats in Chatsworth, Durban. The ANC’s objective was to sell off the council housing. Meer helped to establish the Concerned Citizens’ Group to organise protests against the ANC’s anti-poor policies like privatisation and cost-recovery, which had led to violent evictions and water cutoffs. The ANC deputy mayor of Durban Trevor Bonhomme called Meer a counter-revolutionary. Watch the video above to hear her response.

South Africa: 20 years after Mandela's release, class apartheid continues

Jacob Zuma.

By Patrick Bond

February 16, 2010 -- Recall that South Africa's President Jacob Zuma came to power last year as a result, mainly, of trade union and South African Communist Party mobilisations in 2006-08, culminating in the rude but welcome dismissal of president Thabo Mbeki.

And now, because he is unable to galvanise momentum for any sort of political project aside from survival [following another round of scandals surrounding his private life and dubious attitude towards women], Zuma appears to be drifting rightwards, towards the Afican National Congress' solid financial-support base of white capital and aspiring black entrepreneurs.

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