Introduction to Workers' World

Workers’ World Media Productions is an independent labour movement media project, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and an audience reach across the continent.

We have a vision for an informed, organised and mobilised working class acting in its own interests. To facilitate this, we produce, distribute and facilitate discussion groups, media training, film festivals, training manuals and television shows, but our primary focus is on radio productions and broadcasts. Radio is the internet of Africa, able to reach workers and poor people everywhere. We aim to provide working class people with a voice, their own platform in their language, as well as with the news and analysis they need to advance their interests.

Our project was founded in 1999, and we celebrate our 15th anniversary in difficult circumstances: the global economy is in crisis, the labour movement is divided, and tensions in South Africa are reaching boiling point as people lose patience in a government that has failed to end economic apartheid. Right wing populists are taking advantage of the vacuum, and there is a sense of political volatility in South Africa and all over the world.

 The Marikana massacre of mine workers has in many ways been a watershed political moment in South Africa that brutally exposed the class character of the ANC government and the lengths it was prepared to go to protect the interests of white monopoly capital and their black capitalist cohorts in the ANC’s leadership. It is the class pressure from below like the mineworkers’ strikes and farmworkers’ uprisings that have contributed towards the trade union leaders in Cosatu’s political battles that could result in a split and realignment of the trade union movement with more divisions. Already Cosatu’s biggest affiliate Numsa has broken politically from the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance, refusing to support the ruling party in the forthcoming elections. The union is leading a mass campaign against the youth wage subsidy legislated by government last year and towards a broad united front similar to the UDF of the 1980’s to lead working class struggles. Numsa is also investigating the prospect of leading the formation of a mass workers’ party and will decide on this during 2015.

These are major political developments within Cosatu and come on the back of the NUM losing thousands of members in the platinum sector to rival union, AMCU and its federation, Nactu.

Internationally too, there have been significant political developments in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) Region and Europe since 2010 with mass uprisings, protests and coups. These have at times resulted in worse situations against working class interests, such as in Egypt that is once again dominated by the military junta. Underpinning these uprisings internationally is increased poverty with worsening and widening inequality with the World Economic Forum expressing concern about this phenomenon – “impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.” We can see why even capitalist organisations are expressing concern about the situation when we consider the statistics such as the fact that:

  • Almost half of world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That is 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
  • The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

WWMP’s role as a labour service organisation, owned and controlled by the labour movement is not to take sides in the political battles raging on within Cosatu and South African society but rather to support universal working class political and organisational principles as contained in our constitution of Unity, Independence and Democratic methods. This has been our mantra since our establishment in 1999 and remains so.

We have become accustomed to operating in conditions of crisis: we were formed in the wake of the end of apartheid, and celebrated our 10th anniversary as the world economy went into economic meltdown. Crisis and adversity has become business as usual at Workers’ World. Despite this, and the many challenges we face, we have continued to provide a clear and independent voice for workers. We have also developed an organisational resilience in adversity, and an ability to function under pressure. Despite the challenges and set-backs, we will continue to provide a media service to the workers of South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Commitment to the labour movement

We are not just any media organisation – we are rooted in, and committed to the labour movement. We are non-partisan and democratic: we are governed by a Board that includes representatives from all three of South Africa’s union federations, as well as three labour service organisations. We defend workers’ interests, not those of any political party or faction.

We tell workers’ stories, but we believe in accountability, balance and integrity. Workers need accurate news that provides them with the information they need to participate in society - not propaganda. We abide by journalistic ethics. We believe that for society to function – especially a society with the structural damage of South Africa – people need accurate information. We aim to provide that information in an accessible and relevant format.

We believe in:

  • Unity of workers and working class people.
  • Organisational and political independence.
  • Democracy – both in society and within organisations.

The state of Media and Journalism

We are concerned with the state of journalism, both in South Africa and internationally. We have seen increased media monopolies, the corrosion of good investigative reporting and the downgrading of industrial and labour reporting.

In South Africa, we have seen pro-government media bias from the state broadcaster, as well as the establishment of new print media that pushes the government line. At the same time, press freedom is being eroded, with the proposed Protection of State Information Bill – the “Secrecy Bill”. This legislation would allow the state to prosecute journalists who publish information it would prefer to see covered up for reasons of “national security”. Given the fragile state of South African democracy, especially after the Marikana massacre, this is a worrying development indeed.

Similar increased hostility towards media and journalists are to be found in various parts of the world and reflects the fear of those in power towards the free-flow of information relating to injustice and inequality. At the time of writing this report, four Al Jazeera reporters were still being detained by the military junta in Egypt there and accused of supporting a terrorist organisation, presumably the toppled from power, Muslim Brotherhood party.

In addition to providing an alternative media source for working class people, we work to broaden access to politics and media. We provide training and support in media production, so that trade unionists and working class organisations can make their own media. Our Mass Education Campaign empowers people to question the narratives offered to them by the mainstream media.

Our education and media work is also aimed at building and strengthening much needed grassroots organisation and leadership – at workplaces and within local communities and to build political and organisational bridges between these two terrains of working class life and struggles.

To reach as wide an audience as possible, we work in partnership with community radio stations with accountable structures, trade unions and labour service organisations.

Our Aims

  • To provide a wide range of media accessible and relevant to working class people in South Africa and internationally.
  • To train trade unionists and community members in the use of the media.
  • To improve the use of media and information for the building of working class organisation.

 

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