BY NORM DIXON
JOHANNESBURG — Trade union militants and grassroots activists involved in a wave of working-class community struggles against evictions and cut-offs of water and electricity gathered here for the annual Khanya College winter school on July 2-7.
The theme of the school was "Organising under the conditions of globalisation"; around 80 activists attended.
Khanya College's motto is "Education for Liberation". Established in 1986 at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle, its aim is to assist activists from working class and poor communities understand the political and economic realities of South Africa's brutal form of capitalism.
The workshops held during the school discussed the nature and evolution of capitalist globalisation and drew the links between it and the government's neo-liberal economic policy, the attacks on township residents and the working class.
Participants included township activists fighting evictions and water cut-offs by the African National Congress-controlled local councils around Johannesburg and electricity cut-offs by the soon-to-be privatised Eskom electricity utility.
At least 10 militants, mostly women and young people, from the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee took part. The SECC is in the midst of a defiance campaign against electricity cut-offs, which has included illegally reconnecting residents' electricity.
Participants were very critical of the Congress of South African Trade Unions' unwillingness to seriously oppose the ANC government's policies. Militants felt that COSATU had done little about the large number of retrenchments, growing unemployment and the rapid casualisation of the work force.
All expressed concern at the COSATU leadership's increasingly close ties to the government and agreed that the ANC-dominated alliance, that includes COSATU and the South African Communist Party, should be ended.
There was lively debate as to whether a new workers' party should be formed to challenge the ANC government. "COSATU marches against privatisation but then says that we are not fighting the [ANC] government", said one union militant, "but it is the government that is privatising. If we are not fighting the ANC, who are we fighting?".
The featured speaker at the winter school was Norm Dixon, Green Left Weekly journalist and a member of the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia's national committee.
[For more information about Khanya College and its activities email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.]