Is COSATU at a crossroad? No, it’s just irrelevant
Article was first published here http://www.groundup.org.za/article/cosatu-crossroad-no-its-irrelevant_2891
Is the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) at a crossroad? No, working class struggles are just passing it by, as activists build a new movement and COSATU largely becomes irrelevant to that movement.
This overshadows media speculations over whether there will be a more difficult terrain for collective bargaining; what will happen to the future of the eight, or is it nine, dissident unions; and what general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi might or might not do.
COSATU’s history is a noble one written in workers’ blood. That it should implode is tragic. That it should disintegrate in such an inglorious manner is farcical.
In 2014, we had the longest strike in South Africa’s mining history – a source of renewal for the working class – and it passed COSATU and its affiliates by. In the same year, South Africa had an election in which more than a million people voted for a party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, that opportunistically embraces the language of militant left wing politics – nationalisation, redistribution of wealth, and insisting that ministers and public officials be forced to use public services. This was the language of COSATU in a bygone era, but these days COSATU finds itself alongside a government against whom all these slogans are being directed.
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Who benefits from this xenophobia: the ruling class or the working class?
South Africa has not been the only place that has witnessed xenophobia, in Europe too xenophobia has been growing. An important question needs to be asked in this context and that is who benefits from this xenophobia: the ruling class or the working class?
Xenophobia and the far right
For many years, far-right and populist parties that are anti-immigrant have been gaining ground across Europe. A case in point is that during the recent elections in Britain, the populist anti-immigrant party, the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), received 3.2 million votes. Many such parties attempt to gain support, including in working class areas, by claiming that ills, such as high unemployment and the rolling back of welfare, are caused by immigrants.
This rise in far right parties has also been accompanied by growing xenophobic attacks on immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Germany, for example, violent attacks on immigrants rose by 22% in 2014.
It is not just the far right
The growth of far-right parties and attacks on immigrants, as horrifying as they are, are only symptoms of much larger problems. The reality is that European states, and the ruling classes that control them, have implemented policies that have led to, and are, xenophobic. They have, therefore, created a xenophobic climate in Europe.
Read more: Who benefits from this xenophobia: the ruling class or the working class?