The plan to launch a new workers’ party in South Africa moved a step closer with last week’s Conference for Socialism.
“This was a historic conference,” Trevor Ngwane, a delegate for the Democratic Left Front (DLF) told Socialist Worker.
“Many of us felt it was an honour to be there.”
Around 150 delegates representing 11 different organisations gathered at the event organised by the metal workers’ union Numsa.
The meeting took place against a backdrop of social crisis. Workers from other parts of Africa have faced xenophobic attacks, while the main union federation Cosatu faces a split after the expulsion of its head Zwelinzima Vavi.
The crisis shows the urgency of developing a new socialist current. Vavi said, “We need to take a stand. We need to communicate an unequivocal message that South Africa is not represented by that barbaric minority that is killing and looting.”
Vavi attended the conference. His expulsion from Cosatu is part of a crack that is creating a new left in South Africa.
It is seeing the emergence of new leaders separate from the ruling ANC party and its allies in the South African Communist Party and much of Cosatu’s leadership
Rehad Desai was another DLF representative. Some socialists have been worried that the process has stalled since the initial excitement when a special Numsa conference resolved to look for an alternative in December 2013.
“Some people think the conference is just Numsa going through a box ticking exercise as it passed the resolution for a conference,” said Rehad.
“But I think there is a commitment to push ahead. People were talking about a launch as early as this October.
“We are reaching the stage where it will not just be seen as a Numsa project any more.”
But there were weaknesses. The most important was the absence of two major players who have been central to the new radicalism in South Africa —Julius Malema’s new Economic Freedom Fighters party and the platinum miners.
“Those are mass formations,” said Rehad. “Numsa needs to make sure they realise we want them to take part in the talks.
“We want them to be part of deciding the outcome.”
Trevor Ngwane told Socialist Worker about the growth in xenophobia. He said, “The problem is a feeling among a lot of poor working class people that the middle classes ignore them until a crisis like this emerges.
“We need to make sure that the challenges facing ordinary working class people are brought to the front of politics.”
The conference statement said, “We call upon all our members and structures to campaign in the workplaces and communities for an end to these deadly attacks and to do everything possible to build unity.
“Let us never forget the solidarity and support we received in the struggle against apartheid from the people of the world and from Africa in particular.”
The conference statement concluded, “There is a solution to the problem of xenophobia, poverty, unemployment and extreme inequalities—it is socialism… Workers own no country, workers of the world unite!”