The 20th Annivesary of the Winter School: Welcome!


Dear Comrades

Welcome to the 20th annual Khanya College Winter School. In the midst of so much disintegration and fragmentation and the many challenges that face working people in South Africa, the 20th anniversary of the Winter School is indeed a victory that we need to celebrate together with the communities and social movements and the broader social justice movement.

The continuation of the Winter School over the past 20 years has been located within struggle as Khanya College is subject to the same conditions, trials and tribulations that have faced working people, youth, women and communities in South Africa. It is reflection of Khanya’s embeddedness within and amongst working people that has assisted the College to maintain our orientation.

Khanya was formed in 1986 as a bridging college for black students to access tertiary education. From the very outset Khanya College’s orientation was to link education for liberation with the broader struggle for liberation in South Africa, and since our inception in 1986, students and staff were obliged to work within communities, unions and civil society.

The last academic course took place in 1997, and during this period the college engaged with the broader community college movement but this did not amount to substantial approaches for working people as the orientation of the SA government was towards private education institutions. However, together with trades unions – SAMWU, NUMSA, Paper and Wood, SACCAWU etc. and Cosatu Wits region – Khanya began a Development Practitioner Course for worker activists that was certificated and linked to UNISA’s adult basic education course. The immediate need for this course on perspectives and theories of development was to understand and analyse the ANC-government’s adoption of the Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy in 1996, and its impact on working people.

It was against this background that Khanya organised the first Winter School in 1999, with activists from the trade unions and emerging social movements. The Winter School developed closely in relation to movement building with the social movements and later the withdrawal of the trade unions. The impact of GEAR and neoliberalism has resulted in the demise of some key industries in the country such as textiles, footwear and even the motor sector, and large numbers of workers were retrenched, increasing unemployment. By 2009, there was also a decline in a number of social movements and community organisations and community self-help initiatives.

This was characterized by the high turnover of activists and organisations; the spate of struggles within organisations linked to corruption and sexual harassment, amongst others.

Khanya was itself not immune from the crises within the movements and this was expressed in the high turnover of staff, decline in funding, and the need to re-assess its programmatic focus in relation to the changes and restructuring within the workplace and the impact of neoliberalism on working people.

Since then, together with others in the social justice movement Khanya has dedicated its efforts to rebuild and develop new emerging cadres. This can be seen from the various themes of the Winter School from 2009 to the present.

In 2009 Khanya College formed the first edition of the Jozi Book Fair, to develop cognitive skills, build a culture of critical reading to strengthen movement building within the public domain. In 2014 the All College Conference agreed that Khanya orient to where the working class is being reproduced on a daily basis. This includes building movements at the local level and work with working class formations and orienting to ‘new workers’, especially the youth and women.

For Khanya College, the 20th anniversary of the School is an important milestone in strengthening the social justice movement. We are mindful as we celebrate that this is a collective achievement, over the years, together with activists, movements and communities. We therefore invite you to enjoy the School, and join with us as we celebrate and recommit ourselves to the struggle for social justice.

Theme: Struggle and Survival in Communities and Social Movements

The 20th Winter School comes at a time when working people are under major attack from capitalism. The working class remains exploited, oppressed, fragmented and disorganised.  While we are at the eve of the 2019 national elections, and 23 years of democracy accompanied by neoliberal social inequality and poverty, have not assisted in the clarification of political and organisational questions within working class organisations struggling for change. After the victory of Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC faction in 2017, there are now moves afoot to privatise ESKOM, SAA and other state-owned companies. These initiatives are accompanied by assaults on their living standards continue: VAT has been increased to 15%, and precarious working and living conditions are widespread. Racism has increased, and violence against women has become widespread.

Corruption has become widespread at all levels of society as the elite rushes to fulfil its consumerism. Tenders and straight theft from the state and from the poor threatens to devour all aspects of social, cultural and spiritual life. It is against this background that the theme of this year’s Winter’s School is set.

Theme 2018

This year the theme responds directly to the critical issues facing working people today. In South Africa, neoliberalism has interacted in special ways with the cheap labour capitalism that developed historically. So, although working class organisations internationally also faced the negative impact of neoliberalism, the interaction between apartheid’s cheap labour economy and neoliberalism has made the challenges acute in South Africa and the challenges have had a major impact on the abiliy of the working class to organise.

The late 1970s to the present has been a period of neoliberal capitalism, a violent form of capitalism that generates large-scale poverty within the working class. In 1996 the ANC government under Nelson Mandela implemented the Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy, a neoliberal programme (See Khanya’s booklet on the GEAR). The GEAR has created unemployment through privatisation and restructuring the workplace and cuts in social services, leading to drastic declines in living standards. Every aspect of social and cultural life has been affected, including the decline in sports facilities, – cultural activities and organisations, stokvels, funeral societies and so on.

Over this period of neoliberalism, the nature of work has changed, industries have been restructured through changes in work reorganisation that results in decreasing permanent or fulltime jobs with social benefits such as pensions, healthcare, etc. Increasing use of technology and mechanisation in workplaces leads to job loss, increases stress and disease within the working class. Instead, precarious forms of work (piece-work, casualisation and feminisation of labour) dominate.

Retrenchments, unemployment, homelessness, poverty and social inequality is widespread. It is no exaggeration that under SA’s new democracy social inequality has increased, deepening the historic lines of inequality: colour and class.

Wealth has been transferred from the poor to the rich and the white elite has become even wealthier and a small black elite has grown. 16 million live on a grant and child-headed households and especially single women-headed households have increased dramatically as working people struggle to survive.

This impacts on working people’s daily survival struggles to reproduce themselves, struggles for livelihood and impacts on families’ ability to wage broader struggles in solidarity with each other. In the struggle to survive, solidarity is undermined and it is difficult to build organisations. In this context community organisations and social movements have not been immune as working people have struggled to organise themselves to respond to declining living standards. Their own organisations have not escaped the long arm of neoliberalism.

For activists in organisations their struggles for livelihoods have led to the use of access to organisational resources for survival. This has sometimes led to petty theft, overstating transport and food claims, theft of organisational property, resources, and so forth. On the other hand, community organisations and social movements have shown high levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and this has led to the high turnover of both activists and to the collapse of organisations.

These problems have been made worse by the fact that the organisaions of working people – for example, unions, community organisations and social movements – have not responded to the needs of members. For instance, as people have been excluded from the mainstream economy through restructuring, and the changing nature of work, their organisations have not provided alternative means of support. The challenge of livelihoods is a major concern for working people and their organisations.

In this context, people have had difficulties sustaining their organising and their organisations. The high turnover of activists has affected the memory and continuity of organisations, the skills of running organisations with regular minutes, meetings, skills transfers, and the transfer of memory, and organisational strategy and tactics. The inability of activists to sustain themselves and to cover their own busfare and basic resources has also affected organising and organisation’s life-span. The members of social movements tends to be the unemployed, women, and they have had to contend with the survival of themselves and their children. This impacts directly on the organisation’s own survival, which is at the same time the conduit for the collective struggles and survival of its members and all working people.

While organisations have collapsed because of the lack of funding, access to funds has also be-deviled organisations and struggles within over scant resources. Although organisations have taken up various struggles around delivery issues, such as anti-privatisation, better working conditions, or higher wages, the organisations did not take account of the fact that most members are unemployed and need to survive on a daily basis. Too few organisations have consistently organised around the need for sustainable livelihoods. They have not dealt with how to put food on the table, send children to school, organise school uniforms.  A number of social movements collapsed in about 2008-2010, and this was linked to leadership squabbles over resources and access to resources, unaccountability, corruption and sexual harassment.

The relationship between struggles and survival for activists, communities and social movements is therefore a fundamental challenge facing the social justice movement. This issue needs to be addressed urgently.

Aluta Continua! Another world is possible!

In solidarity

Maria van Driel

# 20th Winter School – Programme

The Winter School is a space that brings together activists from community organisations and social movements to engage each other about the challenges facing the social justice movement in general, and specific to particular sectors.

A key aim is to deepen the analytical tools of activists, especially emerging young people to read the word and the world and to exercise their social agency. The school is a space for intergenerational debate and discussion, for clarification, to draw on experiences of organisations in various sectors, to pass on the baton, and to build networks of resistance.

Preparation for School

In preparation for the School Khanya College held a meeting with communities and social movements on 29 May 2018, and with the Feminist Network that arose out of the 2017 Winter School in 13 June. Both meetings took place at the House of Movements. The aims of the meetings was to consult and engage the support of communities, unions and social movements on the theme of this Winter School. The aim was also to gain their commitment to send delegates to participate in the school, ensure delegates have an opportunity to reportback on the school, and the need to include lessons in ongoing struggles.

Programme

Without an organisation working people are unable to defend, rebuild and re-organise themselves and challenge the structural power blocs that maintain their oppression and exploitation. This 20th Winter School is therefore of fundamental importance in the struggle to rebuild the organisations of the working class.

The School programme will focus on 3 aspects related to the theme, to understand:

i. neoliberalism and how it impacts on the lives of ordinary people (work, basic services, democracy, daily life at home), especially women and children.

ii. responses of working people and their organisations to neoliberalism, and to assess these responses in terms of democracy and ‘feminise organising and community struggles’; and

iii. New ways of building organisation’s internal capacity to respond to neoliberalism to address activists’ struggle for survival, gender issues and strengthen organisations.

In addition, an evening programme will focus on current struggles, a popular suggestion from previous schools.

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