An event that has the potential to change the political landscape of South Africa, like Marikana has done on the industrial plane, was quietly marked in the founding of a new political party, the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) this week-end. The Democratic Socialist Movement, affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International and representatives of strike committees of Bokoni Platinum in Limpopo, Royal Bafokeng and Murray and Roberts in Rustenburg, North West and KDC in Carltonville, Gauteng founded the party. This took place despite seemingly unrelated but more than likely to be deliberate acts of sabotage in the form of the withdrawal of the permission hours after it was granted to hold the rally at a stadium in Limpopo, the draconian bail conditions of leaders of the Bokoni Platinum strike committee and the shunning of the event by the media.
Despite suffering these setbacks in planning what was meant to be a rally and media conference to announce the intention to launch the party and to celebrate the release on bail of key leaders of the Bokoni Platinum Strike Committee leaders, the representatives who could make it there on their own after the rally was called off were undeterred and determined to proceed with what had to be pared down to a founding meeting of the Workers and Socialist Party. What especially lifted the spirit of those gathered was the reading out of some of the messages of support from Harmony Gold, Anglo Gold Ashanti and sister organisations of the DSM in Nigeria, Venezuela, China and others including of the sole member of the Irish Socialist Party in the European Parliament, Paul Murphy.
The need for such a party was clearly evident in the reports given by strike committee leaders of the situation that exists at various mines around the country after the return to work. At Bokoni Platinum a virtual state of emergency has been imposed and workers found not be at work in the surrounding villages are frog marched to report for duty at the mine. At Harmony Gold, workers have resumed strike action and elsewhere discontent is simmering just below the surface as many of the demands for which workers came out on strike as far back August, at the huge cost of lost income and in the lives sacrificed on the koppies of Marikana and surrounding areas remain unresolved and unmet.
Despite the modest founding of the Workers and Socialist Part with just 20 delegates present, it has made concrete the idea of an alternative based on a socialist programme committed to nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy of which the mining industry remains a key component. The WASP will have to put as one of its key demands the nationalisation of the mines under the direct ownership, management and control of workers in the process leading to the socialist transformation of society which is the only basis on which a lasting solution to the problems of mine workers and working class as a whole can be found. The historic first step in the process towards the launch of what until this time has been referred to as a mass workers party will build the strike committees as the first battalion in the struggle to unite workers in the mines, factories and farms, communities and students into a formidable force that will tie the historical knot between the events at Marikana and those at Sharpeville on 21st March 2013.
The WASP will have to distinguish itself from all other political parties by its clearly socialist programme, its approach to electoral politics as but one terrain of struggle and by its public representatives being subject to the right of immediate recall and to a workers wage. It will demonstrate the irrelevance of the ANC conference where candidates contesting for leadership are all committed to the preservation of the enslavement of the working class under capitalism - the very system WASP is dedicated to abolishing
In the coming days and months leading to its launch the WASP will mobilise support for the party with a resolution calling for the building of the party to popularise the idea of an alternative in organised formations such as unions, community organisations, social movements and like-minded political organisations who will be invited to adopt the resolution as part of their formal affiliation to the WASP. The WASP will be fighting party that will unite service delivery protests, student struggles against unaffordable tuition fees and workplace struggles against short time, retrenchments and labour broking. As part of the mobilisation for the launch, WASP militants will fan out across the country to amass a million signatures in preparation for contesting the 2014 elections. WASP will also lead a campaign for the recall of all incompetent and corrupt councillors to replace them with WASP representatives - workers representatives on a workers wage. WASP will put its full weight behind campaigns against corruption and e-tolling.
A series of regional rallies to report on the adoption of the resolution spelling out the broad outlines of what will be in the programme of WASP will culminate in the launch of the party on Sharpeville Day as part of the strategy to register what will be unapologetically a Workers and Socialist Party.
DSM Executive Committee, the Strike and Workers’ Committee Representatives of Bokoni Platinum, Harmony Gold, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Royal Bafokeng and Murray Roberts.
17 December 2012