Despite contradictions in capitalism, socialism has failed to appeal to the South African working class due to fragmentation in left-wing political parties and their inability to articulate the socialist ideology to the poor, according to a political expert.
Reacting to the dismal performance by the newly-inaugurated Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party (SRWP) in the 2019 elections, University of Johannesburg academic Dr David Monyae said unless leftist parties forged unity and formed an alliance, they were “destined to fail in swaying workers to support them in a push for a socialist revolution”.
The SRWP, led by National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim, is the largest union in the country with an estimated 400,000 members. It is affiliated to the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) with over 531,000 members – numbers that seemed to pose a threat to the ANC in the run-up to the elections.
But the poor show at the polls by the SRWP has made reliance for votes on the worker support base from Numsa and Saftu “an illusion”, with the party only managing to scrape 24,439 votes and unable to attain a single seat in parliament.
“It is an assumption to think that the working class has a collective anger against the ANC. If one looks at the outcome of the elections, this assumption has been proven wrong.
“The low voter turnout means that workers did not go to the polls in their large numbers and decided to withhold their votes because something made them angry.
“It was also a failure to comprehend that a huge chunk of workers are ANC members, making it difficult for the older generation to convince them to vote for a new party,” said Monyae.
Poor planning, said Monyae, was also at the core of the SRWP poll shambles which led to failure to make an impact in the elections.
He explained: “We are now dealing with a very smart electorate and a well-informed working class whose nature and character is no longer the same. So, the idea of the SRWP contesting elections so early was dead on arrival.”
Reflecting on its poor performance in the elections, the SRWP leadership said in a statement it was “not shocked by the outcomes”.
“The SRWP faced not only the combined might of the SA capitalist class from all racial groups and their political mouthpieces, but also an entrenched right-wing ANC with its equally right-wing SA Communist Party and right-wing leadership of the Congress of South African Trade Unions.”