Workers’ power not bureaucrats power: lessons from Argentina
Around the world the ruling class (capitalists, politicians and state managers) is trying to restore its profits by making the working class pay for the economic crisis. One way capitalists do this is by retrenching workers and making the remaining workers work harder to meet production targets, as well as by attacking wages, working conditions and benefits. States help capitalists do this, among other things, by increasing interest rates while giving corporations tax cuts, commercialising and privatising state owned enterprises and outsourcing the provision of basic services. States also help capitalists by undermining workers’ rights, such as the right to strike, in order to make it more difficult for workers to resist these attacks.
Unions have failed to defend workers from the immediate threat of these attacks (by preventing dismissals and defending jobs, wages and conditions), as well as to mount an effective resistance that can prevent further attacks and begin to roll back the devastating effects of neoliberalism. Moreover, union bureaucrats are often complicit in these attacks through deals they make with governments and bosses. A recent example in South Africa is the National Minimum Wage and amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and Labour Relations Amendment Bill – all of which represent an attack on workers yet were agreed to at Nedlac by the leaders of the three main federations: Nactu, Fedusa and Cosatu.