A meeting of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) in South Africa discussed a proposed youth wage subsidy, the crisis of democracy, organising women and building the movement.
Gathered in Johannesburg for the 2nd National Steering Committee Meeting of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) for 2012, representatives from different parts of the country met from 9 - 11 June and assessed the current global situation, the political and economic challenges facing South Africa, grassroots struggles and progress in building the DLF.
The meeting highlighted South Africa's unemployment crisis as a national emergency. As a direct result of our colonial and apartheid past as well as post-apartheid capitalism, this unemployment crisis is leaving a trail of hunger, poverty, anger and misery. ANC policies sustain the capital intensive development path and guarantee massive profits for employers. As data from the Reserve Bank shows, between 2000 to 2010 workers have lost R480 billion in income. This income has gone to the bosses and has not resulted in more jobs being created. Much of it has been exported out of the country in dividends and profit. The wealthy elite refuse to concede a single inch to the urgent needs of the majority. Yet, the ANC government fails to put forward transformative economic policies that can systematically and structurally transform the economy and create sustainable decent jobs. The public infrastructure programme announced by the Zuma government is an example of ANC policy failures as it is based on sustaining a mining-dependent, export-oriented and financialised economy that exploits and marginalises the majority. The infrastructure projects will have extremely limited outcomes when it comes to social benefits, job creation and transition to a low-carbon economy. We cannot continue on this path. We need solutions that address the deep systemic and structural causes of unemployment.
OUR RESPONSE TO THE YOUTH WAGE SUBSIDY
The emotive DA propaganda for a youth wage subsidy fails to address the real causes of unemployment. It takes attention away from the required action to address unemployment. It is part of the continuing neoliberal onslaught against decent work. The youth wage subsidy proposal scapegoats labour for the crisis of unemployment. It is a deliberate move to divide the formally employed and unemployed. It is a false solution to the crisis of youth unemployment. It is a direct insult to the unemployed.
As ILO research shows, youth wage subsidies reinforce increased profitability and do not result in any job creation. In essence the youth wage subsidy scheme is nothing more than a subsidy to capital for cheap labour. It will not restructure the economy away from capital intensity and towards labour intensity.
The DLF calls for the sustained mobilisation of unemployed youth and other unemployed people to expose the youth wage subsidy as a false solution and to demand effective programmes for employment, quality education and skills development. As a direct outcome of the DLF's current Listen to the People Campaign, the DLF is working with various unemployed people's organisations to build an effective mass campaign against unemployment and for the Right to Work. We call on all progressive forces in South Africa to join this mass campaign. Concretely, this campaign is being built around these demands:
1. Scaling down of South Africa's carbon-intensive economy through the creation of 1 million clean, renewable energy-climate jobs;
2. Provision of a guaranteed basic living income for the unemployed;
3. A proper public works programme to address the massive backlogs in housing, health, and infrastructure;
4. The filling of hundreds of thousands of vacancies in the public sector;
5. An ecologically sustainable mass public transport system for all;
6. Free basic services and decent housing for all;
7. Return ownership of the land and resources to the people to ensure control of food production to end hunger and build the solidarity economy; and
8. Free, quality education up to university level for all.
To start this sustained mass campaign, the DLF will use the June 16 Youth Day to hold mass events that will mobilise young people in Khayelitsha, Robertson (Western Cape), Soweto, Umlazi, and Grahamstown.
SOUTH AFRICA'S DEEPENING CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY
As if the economic crisis, South Africa's young democracy is increasingly under threat by ANC rule. Increasing state violence against civil society, ANC factionalism, ANC manipulation of the judicial services commission, power struggles to control the state security apparatus, massive corruption (the most recent being revelations about ANC politicians involved in kickbacks for the Gautrain). Revelations are also emerging about the involvement of the ANC's investment arm in Shell's proposed fracking scheme for the Karoo and the nuclear energy programme. In this context, there are increasing moves to tighten control of COSATU through ensuring COSATU is locked into the NEC of the ANC.
Instead of the SACP taking up more fundamental transformative challenges facing the working class and poor, it is actively unleashing authoritarian populism as demonstrated by how it rallied against Brett Murray's painting of President Jacob Zuma. This 'cheer leader' role of the SACP for Zuma is a diversion from real working class struggles required to change this country. Beyond these, other attacks on democratic rights have come from socially conservative forces as can be seen in the call by traditional leaders for the removal of the protection of gay rights in the country's constitution.
Part of the answer to South Africa's crisis of democracy is a vibrant mass movement and civil society. This is reflected in various grassroots struggles on service delivery, ongoing struggles to secure a 'public interest' clause in the infamous 'Secrecy Bill', opposition from communities to the anti-democratic Traditional Courts Bill, NGO action to secure education resources for schools and COSATU's opposition to e-tolls. As the DLF we stand in solidarity with these struggles and call on all South Africans to strengthen these struggles.
THE GLOBAL SITUATION
The unemployment crisis in South Africa is part of a broader crisis of global capitalism that is worsening as reflected in the on-going turmoil in the Euro-zone, economic slowdown in China (including the real possibility of the China bubble bursting), and the impacts of its secondary effects register in other parts of the world. Despite this the global ruling classes are not willing to surrender their dogmatic faith in neoliberal globalisation, including its 'social democratic variants', as the way forward to solve this crisis. Their responses continue to look for new ways to sustain profits for a few and misery for the majority. Africa in this context is merely another site for a greater scramble for its mineral and other natural resources.
Hence the emergence of resistance from the streets in different parts of the world starting with the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. This resistance has now extended to mass protests in Nigeria and Malawi, student rebellions in Chile and Quebec, and significant left challenges to the political system in Greece. The emergence of Syrizia, a new left political coalition in the Greek political scene rooted amongst the unemployed, holds out the prospect of challenging the project of neoliberal Europe. We stand in solidarity with the progressive forces at the forefront of intensifying opposition to suicidal neoliberal capitalism including citizens of Greece, Syrizia and the wider European Left as they attempt to move beyond neoliberal austerity and attempt to open the way for a post neoliberal Europe to emerge. We note at the same time the emergence of a new right wing in Europe and hence applaud efforts for greater unity amongst the Left and as reflected in the recent conference of the Left Party in Germany, the largest institutional left party in Europe.
South Africa has made great strides in advancing the role of women in leadership in society and around the rights of women. However, despite this the conditions facing women are worsening. Sexual assaults, violence, inadequate health care, poverty and unemployment amongst other factors increase patriarchal control and gender oppression. The rise of social conservatism also worsens the position of women. Homophobia is also strongly related to women's worsening conditions. This deepening oppression of women is a direct consequence of the economic and social crisis in our country. The DLF is therefore actively using the mass campaign on unemployment to advance women's struggles.
BUILDING THE DLF
The DLF is a year and half old. While it has a growing footprint in all parts of the country, this is uneven and in some instances not deeply rooted. Various grassroots affiliates are engaging in struggles around service delivery, for land, against electricity price increases, against pollution and for jobs. As we build the DLF we seek to build capacities, campaigns and intensify our efforts to advance a strategic democratic left politics. A key moment in this will be the holding of the next DLF national conference in the first quarter of 2013. We call on all progressive South Africans to join the DLF in order to reclaim our democracy and make another South Africa possible.