During the week the week of 13 – 16 April 2010, we, over 200 delegates from trade unions, labour service organisations and community organisations met in Johannesburg to assess the momentum of class struggle in order to initiate and plan a strong mass education campaign whose primary aim is to raise class consciousness and develop alternative forms of knowledge and struggle in order to build working class power.
Our Conference Aims were:
- To develop and enskill local groups of labour and community media and education practitioners in approximately 40 communities to regularly produce and disseminate education.
- To provide organisational and resource support to local working class communities’ mass education initiatives.
- To develop a dynamic and sustainable local organisational base for labour education and media activities.
- To develop a popular publication on mass education.
The campaign and the conference was a strategic response by COSATU and WWMP to the increasing levels of exploitation, widespread poverty and oppression evident in the harsh reality demonstrated by the following indicators:
- Over 50% of our people living in poverty
- Over 40% unemployed with 1 million jobs lost in just one year
- South Africa is the most unequal society in the world.
- Over 1 million farm-dwellers evicted (1994 – 2004)
These indicators are demonstrative of the fact that the fault lines of the apartheid political economy remain largely intact, with the current growth path reproducing these fault lines. In economic terms, workers and the poor have little to celebrate.
The apartheid economy was characterised by massive inequalities and uneven development across industries and regions. There are five basic fault-lines that this economy has created:
- Inequalities in education quality and access,
- Inequalities in health quality and access,
- Inequalities in the provision of housing,
- High, racial- and gender-structured unemployment, and
- Deepening income and wealth inequalities.
The conference self-critically acknowledged that:
- While much has been done, we have not done near enough to confront the challenges resulting from capitalism and the legacy of apartheid, particularly as regards raising and deepening class consciousness.
- In serving the interests of working class communities we must deepen a profound and radical agenda for revolutionary transformation.
- We have been weakened politically and organisationally to resist attacks upon the working class resulting in a serious decline in working class living standards.
- We have not been able to effectively enhance the unity of the working class, including our organisational responses.
We are not only confronted by “Organise or Starve” but “Organise or Die” as our average life expectancy has declined to 47 years (from 62 years in 1990).
Our biggest obstacle is the capitalist system and those who uphold it in the interests of the rich minority. Despite the fact that our hard-won democracy has created possibilities for change in the living and working conditions of the majority, it is evident that in many respects it has failed the working class and the poor.
Our response, led and supported by COSATU and WWMP, is to develop “A Mass Education Campaign” to assist in re-building us politically and organisationally on the ground, in communities and workplaces. In this regard we acknowledge and accept that the content of our mass education must be agitational and that it must challenge the capitalist system, strengthen existing revolutionary and working class formations, build such organisations where there are none, in order to assert working class hegemony and build alternative working class power in the process of struggle. Our mass education campaign and struggle activities are guided by our universal principles for the widest working class unity, political and class independence and the fullest possible democracy. This includes building international solidarity – in particular with our comrades from Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Palestine.
We therefore resolve to commit ourselves to vigorously, tirelessly and energetically implement our programme of action as agreed at this conference. We also agree to reconvene at a national mass education forum in 2012 to assess and further advance our campaign and struggle.
The powerful words of Haroon Aziz will be our inspiration moving forward:
When a scientific knowledge of revolution is placed, through the patient and painful process of conscious struggle , in the hands of the people it becomes a powerful weapon of the revolution – the primary weapon which is necessary for the creation of a just order out of a relative chaos of an unjust political and social system. Without that knowledge, the people are as helpless as soldiers are without weapons. With it the people become the skilful soldiers of the revolution.
Agreed and adopted unanimously on Friday 16 April 2010 at the conference held at the Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg.