South Africa: Democratic Socialist Movement national conference

Hardening solid gold

About 60 delegates and visitors from across South Africa’s platinum and gold mines, townships and villages, gathered on 9-11 February in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, for the Democratic Socialist Movement’s national conference. At the end of a weekend of discussing the lessons of last year’s Marikana massacre and the strike wave that followed, inspiring reports of the DSM’s interventions in struggles throughout the country, and the details of how to move forward in building the DSM as a revolutionary party, all members are taking back to their branches a steely determination to build the organisation into a true force this year.

The crisis of world capitalism is reflected in the most brutal of ways in SA society. This conference got the DSM well underway towards establishing the revolutionary party which is essential to overthrowing capitalism. The opening discussion on world perspectives, introduced by comrade Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the DSM’s sister organisation in England and Wales, the Socialist Party, was an enormous inspiration to the comrades gathered.

Peter Taaffe addresses meeting

The discussion on South African perspectives reflected an organisation thoroughly rooted in struggle, in particular in workers’ struggle. The conference heard reports from the various strike committee members and mineworkers who attended as delegates and visitors. The discussion had to both reflect on the lessons of the past seven months of struggle and consider the looming new clashes in the mining industry.

The farm workers’ struggle – which recently won a 52% increase in the still pitiful sectoral minimum wage – student and community struggles featured in a wide-ranging discussion, which also noted the ruling ANC’s detachment from a reality that is looking more and more grim on both the economic and social fronts.

The role of a revolutionary party and how we go about building it in SA in the next weeks and months were key to the discussions. Alec Thraves, from the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) introduced an important session on building the revolutionary party. The conference adopted a target of reaching 300 paid-up members by September.

The delegates unanimously affirmed the DSM’s and mineworkers’ committees’ initiative to build the new Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) as a broad socialist party in response to the lack of a working class’ political voice which was apparent in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre. The members who attended the conference are now back in their areas, spearheading the preparations for WASP.

The many messages of support from CWI sections across the world were an enormous inspiration to the conference. The support by the CWI internationally to the SA section reinforced the sense of responsibility and sacrifice that must guide all members in the period ahead.

The conference was in many ways a re-birth of the CWI in South Africa. Based on the new and old members gathered over the weekend, we are confident that the DSM will be able to catch up with history – by continuing to grow its small forces into a true revolutionary party that can constitute the backbone of the beginnings of the Workers and Socialist Party as well as the workers’ committees which have to be strengthened to take on the offensive the mine bosses and the ruling class are preparing.

Izwi labasebenzi, paper of the DSM

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February 2013