The World Congress of the Public Services International (PSI) got started on this rainy morning in Durban. Fairly traditional beginning for conferences with welcoming addresses and the report from the General Secretary.
In the background remains the debate about General Secretary election which, since yesterday, has gotten a bit uglier.
What i found most interesting today, however, was a discussion with a South African trade unionist i met some years ago. He gave me his analysis of the situation in South Africa , specifically from the standpoint of trade unionists. His contention is that the ANC-led government has been very successful in co-opting segments of the union movement into the ruling circle and thereby discouraging criticism of government policy. This has also, according to this comrade, taken place with regard to the South African Communist Party, which he believes is too closely aligned with the government.
This analysis has much in common with other things that i have heard and read, particularly in the aftermath of the massacre of the mine workers some weeks back. It is also worth reading the political report of COSATU General Secretary Vavi from the recent COSATU Congress. There are hints of the struggle as it is playing out in COSATU. Many reports have suggested that there was a move afoot by certain pro-government factions within COSATU to have Vavi removed. The delegates to the Congress would hear nothing of it and he was reelected.
I hope to find out more about the situation while here. COSATU is one of the most important labor federations on the planet and has offered very important analyses and practice from which many of us have learned. The relationship of COSATU to the SACP to the ANC (not to mention the relationship of all of these actors to the larger South African Left) is quite complicated.