Monday, August 06, 2007

Graphical workers union congress

Its permanent struggle for the Printing workers

June 16 saw an end to a protracted fight in the Zimbabwe Graphical Workers Union between the rank and file workers and right wing bureaucrats. Workers finally convened an extra-ordinary congress amidst several attempts to jeopardize them by the bureaucrats who went as far as calling the state to disrupt the congress .The congress was magnificent and one of its kind in the history of the union, it was basically run on a shoe string budget but workers sacrificed all the way from all regions to save their union from collapse.
The congress marked the beginning of a new era, an era of building a real strong union deeply rooted in workers with progressive socialists now in control of the union unlike the previous leadership which had long broken ties with its members. But its hard won freedom for workers for the history of the union fights tells us more and bears a lot to be learnt. Critically that, in the absence of strong organized rank and file organization, chances of trade union bureaucrats ultimately selling is very high .The last five years of the Zimbabwe Graphical workers union have it all .
In 2002 when with guidance from ISO comrades; workers formed a rank and file group called Reflections after the union had failed workers for over a decade. The union was then led by a bunch of sellouts who neither bothered accountability nor a congress to choose new leaders .The rank and file group historically managed to push for a congress in 2002 which swept away the entire previous leadership.
The 2002 congress brought new life in the printing industry, within a year workers in the printing industry were amongst the top paid industrial workers .The union organized two industry wide strikes which completely halted the whole industry forcing bosses to make major concessions to the advantage of workers. Situation suddenly changed altogether after their second successful strike when bosses victimized and fired most of the militant workers who had together with the union officials helped organize the strike.
Unfortunately most of the fired workers constituted a section of the union rank and file, which provided direct leadership in the factories and again played a watchdog role in the union.
Their departure from active participation in the union in a way gave birth to the rise of bureaucrats who found no reason at all for accountability to workers. They established ties with bosses negotiating starvation wages reversing worker’s hard won gains.
It is against the deteriorating conditions again in the industry that concerned workers led by remnants of the previous rank and file of 2002 organized for an extra-ordinary congress on the 16th June, which saw the last kicks to the bureaucrats and sellouts.

It was possible for the sellouts to sell out because workers behind them were no all that organized to demand accountability from their leaders, a lesson which the current leadership should learn and always maintain that rank and file base. Strengthening the rank and file workers backed by socialists now in the leadership will provide the necessary bases for the formation of a RED union which will together with three orfour others in the near future will help strengthen the working class of the country .
Aluta Continua !! Shinga Mushandi , Bury Capitalism !!!
By M Sambo

Create an alternative voice to ZANU PF and MDC

Build a United Front
Create an alternative voice to ZANU PF and MDC
The now obvious right wing shift of the MDC has seen a growing number of workers, students and youths and the radical middle classes becoming disgruntled and questioning the direction of the party .The question which confronts these people , is what is the way forward ?Zanu PF , despite its populist posturing , especially on the land issue , remains firmly embedded as the bosses party , a process strengthened by the death of Border Gezi and Hunzvi .The black bosses in the party now controls all key provinces in ZANU PF and its other key organs like the politburo and Parliament .
But on the other hand the deepening crisis of capitalism locally and internationally, is again making a real possibility of the return of the radical mass based struggles of 1997, as the current nationwide students demonstrations against privatizations how .At an international level , there is developing an anti-capitalist movement shown by major demonstrations in North America , Latin America and Europe in the past two years .
As way forward we argue for the re-groupment of the left and the working class movement in Zimbabwe, and regionally on the bases of a principle of united front, as alternative to the two bosses parties ZANU PF and MDC.
United front
“March separately but strike together”, is the slogan of the united front – a theory developed by the Russian Bolshevik revolutionary, Leon Trotsky on how to deal with situations that confront us in Zimbabwe today. This means revolutionary organizations; radical reformist organizations, trade unions, students and others can enter into temporary alliances around specific issues. When Trotsky at the end of the 1920s, he was concerned about the emergence of the fascism in Europe and he called upon revolutionary socialists to enter into united front alliances with centrist or reformist parties and organizations to smash the then emerging threat of fascism in Italy and Germany .This was in opposition to the Stalinists who opposed such alliances with slogans like “after Hitler ,Our turn” on the eve of Hitler’s victory! Trotsky argued for the unity of democratic forces against rising Fascism , but nonetheless argued even in such unity the socialists must maintain their independence and identity and not be swallowed ,ie March separately but strike together !”.
After the NAZI victory , the Stalinists made a dramatic u-turn going into alliances with such reformist organizations but entirely subordinating themselves to such popular fronts , only to be betrayed by their new allies , sometimes with massive tragic results like in Spain in 1936 , France in 1934 and subsequently Indonesia in 1965 and Chile in 1973.

United front against ZANU PF
The same issues confront us today. ZANU PF and Mugabe today constitutes the biggest threat to the working class as shown by their draconian Labour bill and other legislation and trampling of basic bourgeois rights ahead of 2002 elections. This therefore calls for unity in a united front of all radical forces concerned about democracy in the country to ensure free and fair elections next year and the respect of its results .This means a unity of all radical sections of Labour, constitutional movement , student movement , civic society and those disgruntled with the right wing shift of the MDC and ZANU PF
However such united front should not bind or subordinate itself to the MDC , but each and every individual organization in the front should be allowed to maintain its political and organizational independence , including the right to attack and expose the right wing nature of the MDC even if it is the sole electoral alternative to ZANU PF in the coming elections .
In particular for revolutionary organizations like ISO it is imperative to maintain absolute political independence throughout, if they are not to abandon the very politics that could win real gains for the working class, as happened to the SACP in the ANC popular front.
Socialists must know that their primary role in such alliances is to advance workers ideas within it and seek to win a broader audience for the revolutionary ideas within it .The role of the revolutionary party is to lead and influence workers in the united front so that in the process of the united struggle , workers can see for themselves that the revolutionary politics offer a way forward as opposed to the dead end reformist politics of parliament and courts .
But revolutionaries must always bear in mind that a policy aimed to secure the united front does not of course contain automatic guarantees that unity in action will be attained in all instances .On the contrary , in many cases and perhaps even the majority of cases , organization objectives will only be half – attained if at all .
Freedom of expression uncompromisable

In the vent that reformists in the united front begin putting brakes on the struggle to the obvious detriment of the movement and counter to the situation on the ground and the mood of the masses , we as an independent organization always reserve the right to lead the struggle to the end , and this without our temporary semi-allies .
This precisely describes the position of ISO in the MDC , which give imperatives of democracy movements in the country and the mood of the working class , we entered a united front bases , and continue to offer support on that bases , contrary on the ultra – leftist positions of many of our critics in the regional and international socialist movement who had wanted out .But through out we have fought for and returned complete freedom of expression in order to expose the betrayal , indecisions and halfway spirit of the reformist leadership of the MDC .For that reason any sort of organizational agreement which restricts our freedom our criticism and agitation is completely unacceptable to us , hence we have been prepared to make a complete break with the MDC should such conditions become imposed on us .We stand on that position today which has won us grow audience amongst sections of the radical workers .As Lenin urged in the Left – wing communism – an infantile disorder” it is only through direct experience gained in the course of actual struggle that the broad masses learn that we as socialists fight better than the cowardly reformists , that we are more audacious and resolute that the others .The united front is the form through which we participate in such struggles with the masses and those whom we might agree with on 60% of the objective but disagree on the rest and the form in which we will be able to expose the bankruptcy of the middle class reformists groups and build our own forces .In this way , we shall bring closer the our of the united revolutionary front under undisputed socialist leadership .
By T Sando

Social contract---ZCTU Pull out and call for general strike

Social Contract: ZCTU Pull Out and call for General Strike Now!

On 1 June 2007, the leaders of the unions led by the ZCTU signed the Incomes and Pricing Stabilisation Protocol with government and business. Also signing were APEX for public servants and the Zanu (PF) yellow dog “union federation”, the ZFTU.
The ZCTU says it only signed this protocol and not the other two or a social contract, but the protocol is the most important of the three, the very heart of the social contract that RBZ Governor has been pushing since March. The idea was to reduce inflation to 25% by year end from the then 3 700%; to stop the massive increases of prices of basic goods with businesses promising to increase prices of goods only within agreed parameters; stabilize the economy and give workers a living wage consistent with the Poverty Datum Line. National Employment Councils were supposed to do a one off collective bargaining bench-marked on the April PDL of $1.7 million per month and thereafter monthly collective bargaining based on the inflation rate, whilst government undertook not to tax employees earning below the PDL. The labour leaders in turn promised to ensure “industrial peace” for the six months duration of the protocol, i.e. stop workers from going on strike including the stay away in July earlier on resolved by the ZCTU General Council and affirmed only a week before and at May Day by militant ZCTU president, L. Matombo. They also surrendered their historic role as the leaders of the poor and downtrodden by signing an agreement that said nothing about them. Giving up their most powerful weapon even at a time their South African and Nigerian counterparts were executing huge strikes in defence of the poor.
But the Zanu PF regime and capitalists deceived the labour leaders. Less than three weeks since the signing of the social contract, there has been a huge wave of price increases of everything from transport to food to medicines that we have not seen in the last decade. Indeed the state is now frantically calling for an emergency TNF meeting to address the issues. In any case bosses had not really given much away, with the June PDL already over $3.5 million whilst there was no provision compelling the state to give immediate statutory status to the Protocol, leaving it as a legally non-binging set of promises by government and employers.
Considering the history of other countries in particular Italy, France, Spain, Indonesia and South Africa, the social contract theory - strategy has always been used by governments and bosses when their system of capitalism is in deep crisis and in danger of being overthrown by revolution from the poor to buy time, co-opt labour and the radical movements and later on launch vicious attacks against the working people when things stabilize. In Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, is now in a corner, battered and bruised by the general crisis of Gono’s neoliberal capitalism, sanctions and near collapse of the agriculture sector. There is real danger of a total economic collapse by December as predicted by the Group of 34 international NGOs in Zimbabwe, if not the 1 million % inflation rate predicted by the chief imperialist representative in Zimbabwe, US ambassador Dell. Such a situation creates ripe conditions for massive riots, strikes and revolts from below, which as we saw in apartheid South Africa, Argentina, Madagascar, etc can topple even the most intransigent and brutal of regimes. Already there are growing signs of uneasiness amongst the lower ranks of the army and police. The regime knows this, which is why it has imposed a virtual state of emergence in the main cities and towns.
But that will not be enough. To stop possible mass revolts, the regime will have to neutralize and co-opt its most potentially powerful enemy, organized labour under the leadership of ZCTU from leading general strikes in the next few months, that are likely to be joined by other sections of the urban and rural poor. In the meanwhile the political elites in government and opposition will try and sort out their current differences and problems, including the tricky issue of Mugabe’s succession and unity of MDC, to eventually create an anti-working people and western supported government of national unity accelerating the neoliberal programme already initiated by Gono. This is the real objective of this dangerous social contract, the Mbeki talks between Zanu (PF) and MDC leaders and the activities of the imperialist-funded and controlled Save Zimbabwe Campaign. This is what Mugabe meant when recently offering the opposition leaders bribes of farms and tractors -“Nyaya yekudya inyaya yedu tese, hapana asingararame nekudya. Kana toita politics dzekutunguna tinenge taguta.” (When it comes to eating the national cake, we eat together, and only engage in party politicking and insult one another after we are full).

Way Forward and our Demands
Well now that the capitalists and government have reengaged on their promises, labour must immediately pull out of the social contract and mobilize for action this July, taking a leaf from the unions in South Africa and Nigeria. The general strike must be accompanied by general demonstrations by all sections of the working people and poor.
But to succeed we need a campaign that unites the factory with the township, the growth point and school and college campuses; that unites the workers with the unemployed, housewives, youths, students, vendors, informal traders and combi drivers, peasants, the human rights activists, political party militants and revolutionary socialists and their different organizations and movements, such as those assembled under the Zimbabwe Social Forum. Thus this action cannot be unilaterally run and controlled by the ZCTU leaders alone as in previous stayaways if it is to succeed, but must be a genuine democratic united front with all these movements, including in the formulation of strategies, tactics and demands, even if organized labour remains the leading player.
We must have full scale mobilization through leafleting, posters, labour forums in industry as well as labour – residents forums in the townships and setting up joint labour-activists teams operating in the industries, colleges, and townships. Our demands must be comprehensive and holistic – a Working People’s Charter demanding:
· An immediate statutory national minimum living wage adjustable every fortnight consistent with the rate of inflation and pegged to the bread basket or USA dollar and which is tax free, with employment councils only negotiating top ups;
· Mandatory jail sentences for managers, directors and owners of businesses that unilaterally increase prices of basic goods and services or offload goods on the black market or violate the minimum wages;
· Immediate take-over of businesses and enterprises by workers of enterprises that violate minimum wage provisions or violate price controls or off-load goods on the black market;
· a special levy into a worker controlled fund, on all Stock Exchange listed companies, multinationals, pharmacies and large businesses like retailers like mines, OK and TM to fund our collapsing health, education, transport and peasant agriculture sectors as well as emergency food aid for those in need and the needs of the disabled and those infected and affected AIDS/HIV.
· Immediate stopping of harassment of vendors and informal trade and the right to trade in town centers and other desirable areas;
· The immediate lifting of the de facto state of emergency that the regime has imposed in our cities and towns,; repeal of POSSA and AIPPA;
· A new people-driven democratic and anti-ESAP constitution; free and fair elections under such constitution within six months and trial of those guilty of crimes against humanity and compensation for the victims.

The situation and timing has never been more ripe. The ZCTU leaders and militants today have a historic duty on their shoulders to provide leadership and call for and lead mass action without further delay – Failure to do so, history will judge them very harshly.
Shinga Mushandi Shinga! Penga mushandi ! Another Zimbabwe is Possible! Now is our time!

As economy collapses

As economy collapses …

Imperialists predict regime collapse & Mugabe threatens nationalization
We say … Mass Action now to kick out Regime & Imperialism!!!

Zimbabwe is at cross-roads as the economy rapidly heads for implosion. In June 2007 a Group of 34 International NGOs in Zimbabwe warned of economic collapse within six months. Outgoing US ambassador, “regime change” specialist, C. Dell, went further -
“We are closer to seeing change in Zimbabwe today generated from within than at any time since Independence... The acceleration of the economic collapse signifies an end-game for President Mugabe. The country’s inflation has doubled every month. In February independent analysts revealed that inflation was at 3 000%, while in March it doubled to 6000%. In April it was at 12 000% and currently it’s at 20 000%. By year-end the inflation rate will be at 1.5million percent…world-wide no government has survived presiding over inflation that had hit over seven digit levels.”
This is not mere talk by “imperialists.” In calling for an urgent Social Contract in February 2007, Reserve Bank Governor, G. Gono said the country was facing an unprecedented abyss. In the last two weeks of massive price increases of basic goods, such predicted economic now seems imminent, prompting the government to order the slashing by 50% of prices of all goods and services and impose a prize freeze. At the burial of Brig. General Gunda at the National Heroes Acre on the 27th June, conveniently chosen as it was the day of departure from office of Tony Blair, Mugabe threatened to nationalize all business that flout the price controls and jail the owners:
“Zvatirikuuya nazvo iyezvino tavakuomeserana. Kana to tinha, touya, whether you are bakers, producers, industry or commerce, take note, tinokuteverai. Ende hausi mutambo uchaitwa zvakanaka, it will be a rough game. Tavakusungana, you will be jailed. We will not be defeated by these tactics of regime change of the British …we will seize the mines and companies. We will nationalize them if they continue with these dirty games… we will take all the companies. Tinogona kuritambawo game iroro, ende tichimwisa futi, ne rough iyoyo.”
The question is whether this is just another toothless bark by the Mugabe regime or it means business this time or indeed the end-game has finally arrived for Mugabe?

Mugabe’s two choices
In the February 2003 issue of Socialist Worker we predicted that the main factor that would determine the future of Zimbabwe was the worsening economic crisis and how the main political actors would respond to this. We stated then that whilst Mugabe “was an intelligent and ruthless operative, capable of sophisticated and tactical shifts and the wrong-footing of his opponents, he and Zanu – PF are not immune from the tensions arising from the economic crisis, to which they have no solution.” We stated that the Mugabe regime had two choices: enter into a compromise deal involving a neo-liberal government of national unity of elites in Zanu PF and MDC supported by the West with Mugabe himself retiring or refuse to compromise politically, even as it proceeded with Gono’s neo-liberal programme and increased repression. We warned – that “the deepening of the neo-liberal agenda by a Mugabe government especially without the co-option of the MDC as a junior partner and acquiescence of the west would accelerate the economic crisis to the proportions seen in Argentina at the end of 2001 as local and international capital lay siege on the beleaguered regime…” As it were Mugabe chose the second option, especially with his decision to run again in 2008. And with it the climaxing economic crisis we see today. But does that mean he is finished?

Mugabe not finished
The imperialists have probably spoken too prematurely. Although in a corner the regime can still wiggle out by whipping business into line of complying with its social contract and not raise prices dramatically until elections next year. Mugabe is unlikely to want to nationalize as such given that his government is after all predominantly made up of bosses. But if business resists, as it has immediately done now by taking goods off the shelves, more radical measures are likely to follow. These may include a combination of nationalization, seizing some foreign businesses to give to his cronies under the guise of indigenisation or letting out Zanu PF hordes into selected shops. But Mugabe counts on the fact that business is likely to play ball being afraid of a repeat of the farm invasions and knowledge that he has the necessary two thirds parliament majority to amend the constitution. Given that the capitalists have been profiteering most will be prepared to weather a price control regime until election time rather than lose everything, giving the regime a powerful campaign tool. If Mugabe does not do the above indeed he is finished.
Not that Mugabe is totally averse to some kind of elitist compromise deal, for his retention of the neo-liberal Gono and his doling out of tractors to MDC leaders shows that he too is ready to compromise, but in a deal that leaves him and his party as the senior partners. But should business not co-operate or even should he lose the elections, one cannot discount the possibility of him hanging on to power by force and proceed to nationalize key sectors of the economy and try and survive on the basis of the N. Korean and Cuban models as he today threatens.

Struggle only way forward
So whilst the economic crisis in Zimbabwe is climaxing it is na├»ve to think it will lead to automatic regime change or election victory in March 2008. As we earlier stated: “It is not all that obvious which way Zimbabwe will go or that the bourgeois elites will have their way. The country is at unprecedented crossroads, a virtual precipice…It is quite possible that if the local elites fail to urgently strike a settlement …including the resolution of the Mugabe succession issue, Zimbabwe could easily go the way of the growing number of neo-colonial failed states, notably Cote D’Ivoire…”
But also equally important is that the present situation is pregnant with another possibility that the Dells, Mugabes and MDCs don’t talk about but is probably the most powerful method of dealing with the crisis: “On the other hand it is also possible that the working class could again, as it did in 1996 – 98, inspire the rest of the working people and sections of the middle classes into massive social and political struggles against the entire neo-colonial and neo-liberal capitalist state as we see happening in the anti-capitalist struggles in Latin America today. But such struggles require that the working class build appropriate organizations to lead the struggle and develop an independent revolutionary socialist class ideology that guides them to victory. Critical to this, is the transformation of trade unions into more democratic, united and accountable organs of workers and the building of a political united democratic front of all progressive sections of the working people, urban and rural, with clear class and ideological lines, unlike the broad church dominated by the bourgeoisie of 1999… The worsening economic situation will continue to trigger small to significant revolts centred around bread and butter issues … The challenge is to generalize and link such different small actions into broader, bigger and specific campaigns supported by all the various forces still ready to fight, whilst also linking these to the struggle for a new democratic and anti-capitalist constitution…In the immediate, the objectives of such struggles would include complete constitutional reform to expand democracy, legal institutions, nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy, land re-distribution and general subordination of private property to society’s needs. A central demand of the movement must be that harmonized elections be done by 2008 but only under a democratic, people driven and anti-ESAP constitution. If the regime rejects this … then the struggle must be shifted to all out mass action – jambanja or civil disobedience …a determined struggle to throw it out as has happened elsewhere. This must be the basis on which co-operation with the opposition parties must be built, but on the basis of an autonomous movement of working people and other radicals, so that when the political parties betray the struggle by entering deals with the dictatorship, as they are likely to, the struggle will continue…”
It would be a huge mistake to surrender leadership of such action to the opposition leadership, for “ … any strategy of fighting the dictatorship based on a movement dominated or controlled by the MDC (like the Save Zimbabwe Campaign) will remain prisoner to the glaring ideological and strategic confusion it has shown since 2000 and is bound to fail... Even if it should engage in some mass action …its primary pre-occupation is towards reaching a sell out settlement with the Zanu PF dictatorship that will not benefit the poor and working people… In other words to quote ZCTU president L. Matombo: ‘our goals are different. We see the product of this process as social revolution. They don’t.”
ISO Zim June 2007