11 March 2016, Holiday Inn, Boksburg

Let me for and on behalf of the 4th National Congress National Committee and the rank and file membership of the YCLSA, say receive special revolutionary greetings from a more modern, more militant, more vibrant, more discipline and socialist in character YCLSA.

I am deeply honored to be your guest this morning and to be allowed to share our thoughts with you on the role of working class youth to strengthen trade union movement. Thank you for the opportunity once more on sharing in such organized political school of the organized workers, POPCRU. A Union that value its members as such a POPCRU Member is a POPCRU’s priority.

Allow me Programme Director, to say when we speak about working class youth or when we referring to working class youth we don’t only mean only those employed. We also mean those not employed as they are unemployed as a result of a cruelty and brutality of the capitalist system.

The topic I have to present is “The role of working class youth in strengthening trade union movement”. This is a topic that is very close to both the YCLSA and the SACP, in particular on organization and communist education of youth “With particular attention being paid to young workers, students, professionals and marginalized youth. One of the biggest challenges facing our country is to address the needs of the youth, and one of the best ways to do this is to challenge the influence of capitalist ideology, tenderpreneurship, drugs and alcohol abuse amongst the youth”

Youth is a transitional phase of development to adulthood and we are in the transitional phase of our revolution. In essence, I am tasked to speak about the transition in the transition, and that is an interesting aspect indeed. It is interesting because to know the past is to divine the future and today is the tomorrow we spoke about. Any nation without a history is like a tree without the roots.

According to CHE, Youth is the malleable clay from which we can build a new person without any old vestiges. To speak of the Youth is to speak not only of the future of a people or of a nation, but it is to speak of hope; it is to speak of the very ‘soul’ of a nation. Hope, as Paulo Freire (2008) indicates, it is an ‘ontological need that demands an anchoring practice’. It requires a realistic practice for it to become edifying; for it to become ‘historical concreteness’. The ‘soul’ of a nation, on the other hand, infers the very seat of power; the wholeness of essence and the propelling drive to higher levels. This underlines the weight of meaning and the depth of value the Youth carries in a nation, to its people and to be precise in the trade union movement.

The role of the youth in South African politics is probably as old as society’s construction of the ‘youth’ as a social category. Allow me then to take snapshots in history about the significance of youth in our struggle.

The participation of young people in the liberation struggle preceded the student uprising of June 16, 1976. Before the establishment of the African National Congress Youth League in 1944, young people had been participating in numerous political campaigns in response to measures and laws affecting Black people. In the 1920’s, the Communist Party of South Africa already had a youth wing.

Young people took part in political campaigns from the early years. Many political formations established at the close of the 19th century and early in the 20th century were made up of people of all ages. Some of the most important figures were young men and women. Ghandi was only 24 years old when he helped found Natal Indian Congress and became its first secretary. Likewise, Sol Plaatje and Pixley ka Seme assumed leadership positions in the South African National Natives Congress when relatively young. Dr Abdullah Abdurrahman got involved in politics before becoming the first coloured person to the Cape Town City Council in 1903 at the age of 34.

The generation of young leaders who from the 1930’s rose to prominence and dominated the political life for more than six decades includes Peter Mda, Anton Lembede, Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo, Oliver Tambo, Albertina Sisulu, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Ray Alexandra, Lillian Ngoyi, IB Tabata and Robert Sobukwe. They changed the face of the national liberation struggle.

They were followed in the 1970’s by leaders such as Steve Biko and Rick Turner, who inspired the thousands of young people who played active roles in the 1973 Durban strikes and 1976 student uprising, events that brought about the changes that led to freedom.

Two members of the YCL had been elected in the Executive of the CPSA (Communist Party of South Africa) at the third Congress in 1924. At the time of the election, a senior member of the CPSA, Cde Solomon Borski commented at the time; “Many a time I have asked myself the question, where are those that are going to replace us when time leaves us behind the general advance of history. Where are those youngsters whom I have seen in more than one country, who should combine the vigour of pasting leaflets, or slugging scabs, and occasionally overturning a tramcar during a strike, with the courage of facing an audience and the ability of figuring in lecture room? I have seen them now.”

History teaches us that, it was after the formation of the ANCYL in the forties under the leadership of Mzwake Lembede, which brought militancy, agency and vibrancy, with a clear radical programme of action within the ANC, being inspired by the works of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA, and the victory of the Ethiopians under the leadership of Haile Selasie against the Italian fascists of Moussolini. The exemplary life and works of Mangaliso Sobukwe, Mzwakhe Lembede, Bantu Biko, Ongkopotse Tiro, Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Walter Rodney, Angela Davis, Frantz Fanon, Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral and many Black warriors who at the young age carried the responsibility to liberate Africa and African people from white supremacy. These Black warriors affirm the crucial and critical role of the youth in nation building and in the fight against white domination. They were actively involved in the struggle and commanded respect from the elderly. Many of them lost their lives and others were imprisoned at the young age, sacrificing their lives for the liberation of Africa.

There is no one who can deny the fact that youth are important asset of any nation, the youth are creative and innovative. Youth in a better position to introduce new dimensions contributing to the current socio-political and economic dialogue, particularly in the area of the current transition. Equally, youth has an important role to play in making known the views and aspirations of the youth with special focus on good governance, transparency, tolerance and democracy. Youth constitutes the richest wealth of a country. Youth develops quality of personal integrity, personal discipline and open mindedness. It is enriched further when youth develops an open attitude and universal outlook. As youth is a period of passions, emotions, activity and vigour, youth should be trained to combine enthusiasm with patience. Youth should develop an open attitude and universal outlook. This is the real empowerment of youth. Empowering or enabling is like a process similar to teaching and fishing.

This warrants the promotion of a new culture and thus a different mind-set. Hence, a comprehensive rethinking is required in all walks of life with a total commitment to the issues of youth development. Educational experiences should be provided to youth with an objective to enhance their tolerance level and help them understand the merits of tolerance and respect for “otherness”. “Respecting the others” goes much farther than tolerance. Education must promote an aptitude of free inquiry, frank and vigorous discussion and willingness to work in teams. Education should teach the youth not only to tolerate differences but also to respect differences.

In the area of ethnic development, the youth of different ethnic groups can forge links between cultural minorities and popularize shared values, and shared cultures and traditions handed down from generation to generation.

In political development, youth can be trained to form the cadre to expose the rural poor to democratic processes and institutions, to consensus building and voting mechanics, to party and government platforms.

In socio-economic development, the youth can join internship/training programs with agricultural, manufacturing, and service industries, sharpen their skills to become the forward-looking personnel needed by our countries to help our economies compete favourably against international competition.

In political/government development, the youth can engage in internships in the parliamentary institutions, join in political awareness-building, reform political parties and remove the ugliness of partisan politics, and at the same time force transformation in the bureaucracy to ensure good governance, accountability, transparency, and citizenry participation.

Who is this working class youth we talking about?

These are the sons and daughters of kitchen girls and garden boys, son and daughters of Truck Drivers, son and daughters of Police, son and daughters of Nurses, son and daughters of Teachers, son and daughters of Clerks, son and daughters of Hawkers and son and daughters of unemployed parents who continues to experience capitalist exploitation every second, every minute, every hour, every day and every year.

What is the character of young people?

Young people are visionary and Young people are vigilant and energetic. (Xa ufuna ukuchitha into usebenzisa ulutsha ungayichitha ngokukhawuleza, kufana naxa ufuna ukwakha xa usebenzisa bantu abasha uyakha ngokukhawuleza kwakhulu). Hence is important to invest and guide young people because if the youth energy is used correctly and guided properly we can achieve whatever strategic objective we seek to achieve. With the youth guided and conscientize the future of the revolution is safe. Young people can be used to take forward the revolution or to destroy the revolution.

What are the key roles of the working class youth to strengthen trade union movement?

  • Holding on the values and principles of the trade union movement.
  • Not to leave organizational processes and move with time.
  • To be the watch-dog of the trade union movement (Never allow organizations to be used by individuals to further their petty-selfish interests).
  • Defend the trade union movement.
  • Recruit and encourage young workers to join trade union movement.
  • Organize all young workers to partake on trade union movement programmes, regardless they are the members or not.
  • Be the communicators of trade union movement decisions.
  • Mobilise mass popular trade union movement campaigns.
  • To let young people to find their way is dangerous (Your responsibility).
    As the South African youth, particularly with a working class background in this current conjuncture, let us learn from the past and those who came before us, as we are still confronted with the same social, economic and political challenges. The working class youths must be aware of the machinations of imperialism neo neo-liberalism here in South Africa and in the world, so to be empowered to advance the struggle for total liberation of Africa.

During the dark days of apartheid we had a slogan “We are the future! Nobody can stop us!” We are from the past; we are the current, stepping into the future. We are responsible for our future, so let us create it now. Let us continue to bring awareness of the socio-economic ills and deepen class consciousness among our people especially the young ones who are consumed by capitalist agenda and are sent to political dreamland. Capitalism reproduces itself among its own victims. The youth must start to help and build their own communities, leading our people out of darkness, backwardness, ignorance, illiteracy, hunger, poverty, diseases and exploitation of man by another.

Congress of South African Trade Union, in particular its affiliates need young workers who are visionary, conscious, brave, militant, disciplined, guided, independent and resolute, men and women of character courage and integrity. That is the calibre of leaders to take the revolution to its final conclusion, we need young warriors to liberate totally and restore the dignity of our people. Oliver Tambo’s words are more relevant than ever: “Any nation that does not value its youth does not deserve a brighter future”. That future for us is Socialism.

There can be no revolution in South Africa and anywhere in the world without the involvement of the fresh blood which embodies the future of its nation, of an organization and that will carry the load for the elders, becoming the engine of organization, for the realisation of organisation’s aspirations and its founding mission. The youth are the pride, drivers of the nations. Without the participation and involvement of the youth in the struggle and advancement of Africa, we are bound to fail in our endeavours to liberate SA from the hands of white European capitalists who still exploit our natural and human resources for the benefit of global world.

Forward to Socialism, Forward!

Long Live POPCRU, Long Live!