This looks at why the working class should not vote in the upcoming elections in South Africa.
In the run up to the 2014 elections in South Africa, politicians from across the spectrum – whether from the Democratic Alliance (DA), the African National Congress (ANC), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), or Pan-African Congress (PAC) – have been calling on us to vote. The leaders of these parties too have pitched up at almost any public event, spirited there in their BMWs and Mercedes Benz’s, to make long-winded speeches about how they care about the poor; whilst dressed in plush suits, expensive dark shades and now too, fashionable red berets.
As part of this, they have promised to meet people’s needs, end poverty, and serve communities when they are elected. The promises of all these politicians are, however, hollow lies. Politicians don’t give a damn about workers and the poor; all they care about is their own power. They will tell us anything to get into the state and ensure nice jobs in parliament.
When politicians get into the state – whether at a municipal, provincial or national level - all they do is pass laws and put in place policies that benefit themselves and their rich friends. They protect their own interests and those of their allies in the form of the capitalists when they are in the state. Far from serving us; they wage a war on us.
This is even the goal of the EFF. The EFF says should they get into state power, they will use the state to nationalise the banks and mines. A state nationalising companies, however, means the state takes ownership of these companies, the state then appoints the managers (who get huge salaries) and they grow rich out of this. This is state capitalism, and is certainly not socialism. Under nationalisation, the working class still does not own anything; the state does. Workers still have bosses, expect under nationalisation, the bosses are well paid state managers, and workers are still exploited and oppressed.
So the elite in the EFF, like Malema, want to use the state to enrich themselves through nationalisation. In fact, most of the leadership of the EFF was in the state, or linked to it through tenders, when they belonged to the ANC. They used their positions then to enrich themselves. Why would it be different if they were in the state again as the EFF? As a matter of fact, the only reason why they are out of the ANC and the state is due to internal fighting in the party over resources; access to state jobs and tenders; and who controls this.
In truth, the EFF is not anti-capitalist in any way. In their founding manifesto, which is their election platform, they say they will welcome private capitalists – both local and foreign – to invest in manufacturing and beneficiation in South Africa. They even call in places for cross-class alliances to build the economy and promise that they will use the state to assist private enterprises in key sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing. This means they will welcome capitalists into many sectors of the economy, fund some of them, and allow them to exploit workers, and that in South Africa mostly means black workers.
In reality getting into the state power does not abolish the class system, the rule of a few, inequalities nor capitalism. Getting into the state simply changes the make-up and some of the faces of the people that rule and that make up the ruling class. Under states, which are always top down, only a few can rule: the majority of people can never be involved in decision making under a state system. That is why when former liberation fighters or activists have entered into the state, because of its top down structure, they have become rulers, forgotten all their promises and gotten rich. They have become governors and ruled in their own interests. To keep this going they exploited and oppressed the vast majority of the people – using states and their institutions like parliament, the courts and police to do so. The ANC’s – along with their alliance partners, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - rule in South Africa at the head of the state highlights this process very clearly.
This means if we vote, we are only choosing new faces to join the class of oppressors and exploiters, but we are in no way changing class rule and certainly not taking any step towards ending capitalism.
Instead of voting, we rather need to organise and build a massive campaign around not voting and strengthen the power of our movements. We can also use this to expose politicians for what they are – ruling class parasites in service of their own interests and that of their class: the ruling class. Along with this, we can highlight how the state and capitalism is tied together and how the state is an instrument of the ruling class, no matter their faces.
In fact, we need to start building our movements into a massive power that can smash capitalism and the state in the long run; and throw out the capitalists and politicians from power – voting does not bring us closer to this; but organising and struggle on the streets, in the mines, schools, farms, on the land and factory floor does.
As part of this, we need to build towards the goal of taking the land, mines, banks, farms and in fact everything into our own hands as the working class through struggle and seizing them directly – and not through hoping that politicians will give them to us (they won’t, they will keep it for themselves and their capitalist allies, and stab us in the back). We also need to build and fight so that one day we as the working class can take power in society and run it through direct democracy without a state – using our movements and things like worker councils to allow everyone to have an equal say in how society is run. Voting brings us no closer to this either. Rather all it does is create more illusions in the state and politicians; and it keeps us slaves!