“Red must be green and green must be red.”
By Norman Traub and Terry Conway
From Socialist Resistance, March 4, 2009
Well-known South African activist Trevor Ngwane addressed a fascinated public meeting in central London on March 1, explaining the launching of the Socialist Green Coalition. He introduced the discussion by talking about the election of an ANC-led government in the first democratic election in 1994 and the disillusionment among the masses that followed.
This was as a result of the neoliberal policies pursued by the government, which left the vast majority of blacks impoverished. This has been compounded by rising unemployment, completely inadeqaute housing provision and unaffordable water and electricity. The enduring tripartite alliance of the ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP) and COSATU (the trade union federation) has ensured the political dominance of the ANC.
The formation of the Socialist Green Coalition is a challenge to the parties supporting the status quo, in the general elections to be held in April. It was essentially brought about by a merger of two bodies: the Operation Khanyisa Movement arising out of the Anti-Privatisation Forum in Gauteng (the province where Johannesburg is) and Ecopeace, an independent party in Durban, devoted to protecting the environment.
Residents associations and left wing organisations such as the Socialist Group, Keep Left Socialism from Below, the Democratic Socialist Movement and the Workers Party with links to the Black Consciousness Movement have also joined the coalition.
Its programme is a fusion of socialist and ecological demands. It stands for the interests of the working class in society and in running the state. It advocates measures against pollution of the environment and the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy resources. It believes that inherent in capitalism’s quest for profits is the harm it causes nature. Its slogans are “red must be green and green must be red.”
Ngwane explained that South Africa has the biggest carbon footprint in Africa because of the central role that mining plays in the country’s economy. He spoke about the way climate change was causing migration from other parts of the continent in particular Mozambique.
One of the qualifications of the Electoral Commission in South Africa for registering a political party is that it has to pay a deposit of half a million rands (about £45,000 – but that is effectively much more given the much lower standard of living in South Africa) and this effectively serves to disqualify left wing parties. The Socialist Green Coalition is therefore campaigning to replace the big monetary deposit for registration, by a clause which stipulates the production of the signatures of 10,000 voters. This is the provision that was in place for the first democratic elections in 1994. Having got themselves elected, the ANC pulled up the ladder behind them.
In South Africa, the ANC has recently split but the break away party, the Congress of the People is to the right of the ruling party. Ngwane explained how the ANC have responded to the split by appealing to people to stand by it loyally as those that got rid of apartheid, and that this was having some effect on people who had started abstaining because they had become disillusioned.
The appearance of the Socialist Green Coalition on the political scene is a welcome development not only for South Africa but internationally. The ecosocialist movement is still in its infancy and will be strengthened by as well as being able to strengthen the Socialist Green Coalition.
The Socialist Green Alliance is faced with huge tasks. It will have to build up support in the trade unions, the peasant organisations and the social movements. It will have to show the masses the relevance of ecosocialism to their struggles. Radical movements all over the world will be looking to its growth and development.