Nimrod Sejake Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Nimrod Sejake

Solidarity with South African workers

(September 1985)

From Militant, No. 767b, 27 September 1985, p. 15.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Over the past five years many Labour Party and trade union branches have shown appreciation of the work of the Southern African Labour Education Project (SALEP).

SALEP produces vitally needed socialist education materials for the workers and youth movement in South Africa. It also helps to build links between the growing trade union and youth movement in South Africa and other workers throughout the world.

But on 27 March this year, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved to direct that “Regions, CLPs and affiliates have no contacts with SALEP, do not use its materials or allow it facilities”. In effect a ban has been introduced.

The NEC said SALEP were outside “mainstream progressive opinion both within and outside South Africa”, for among other things linking the end of apartheid with the end of capitalism and for building links between workers in South Africa and elsewhere.

During the British miners’ strike, striking Staffordshire miner Roy Jones was invited by the South African NUM to visit South African miners. The black mineworkers gave a generous donation to the British miners’ strike and Roy met SA NUM leaders, conference delegates, stewards and rank and file.

The NEC report claimed that SALEP were not building links at all levels and that Roy was a “white unrepresentative member” of the British NUM. The South African NUM on the other hand made him their first white member.

The NEC also claim that SALEP’s expenditure is diverting resources from the liberation movement. The claim is nonsense.

The African National Congress (ANC) receives big grants from a number of governments including a million kroner a year from the Swedish government, dwarfing SALEP’s £5,000 a year spending.

New federation

The NEC report echoes the view put forward in the Stalinist SA Communist Party through the ANC and South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in exile.

Instead of taking organisational action against SALEP on the advice of a body dominated by the SA Communist Party, the Labour Party should look to the new federation of independent trade unions being formed this November, which, drawing together up to half a million black workers, will constitute the most powerful organisation of black workers in South Africa’s history.

The unions making up this ‘super union’ all advocate direct links between workers internationally and particularly between organised workers in the same multinationals.

How can the NEC now justify its statement that “it is the duty of the international trade union movement to consult and accept the advice of SACTU” when the organised black workers have their own directly elected representatives?

SALEP makes no apology for advocating direct links and direct support for the non-racial trade unions in their struggle against oppression and the capitalist monopolies. At the same time it supports the ANC and the United Democratic Front (UDF) whose leaders are on trial for treason.

Both these organisations endorse the Freedom Charter which calls for the nationalisation of the monopolies and banks. While the leadership of the ANC fudges this question and talks of ‘breaking the monopolies’, SALEP supports the full implementation of the ANC’s freedom charter as do the hundreds of thousands of activists in the country.

As a group carrying out socialist education, SALEP is helping to prepare black workers for the task of leading their unions, community organisations and the UDF on a programme of national liberation and socialism. As a FOSATU speaker said at a May Day rally this year: “Capitalism is our enemy!” (Star, 2 May 1985).

It is these ideas of the mass movement, strengthened and explained in SALEPs material, which the NEC has condemned in banning SALEP and the campaigns for direct links.

Delegates should read the letter of protest from left-wing members of the NEC available from SALEP and oppose the right wings suppression of socialist education.

Speakers from SALEP should be invited to the GMC, regional parties, wards and trade unions to hear their reply and report on the exciting developments in the Labour movement in South Africa, which dooms apartheid and capitalism to destruction.


Nimrod Sejake
(Former organiser of Transvaal steelworkers)

Nimrod Sejake Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 9 August 2016