National Assembly of the Unemployed

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Unemployed People’s Movement Press Statement

National Assembly of the Unemployed

It is time to confront the crisis of mass unemployment. Our dignity is not negotiable.

The Unemployed People’s Movement will be hosting a National Assembly of the Unemployed in Grahamstown from 7-9 December 2013. Around 400 delegates from organisations and movements in struggle around the country will attend the event.

Millions of young people, mostly young black people, have no work. They feel that they cannot move forward with their lives. There is a sense of rising desperation. The unemployed are being pushed to the margins of our society economically, politically and even spatially. They time has come to say that enough is enough. The time has come to link the crisis of mass structural unemployment to trade union and community struggles and to build a united movement that can achieve real change from below.

As the UPM our demand has always been that every adult person must either receive a decent job or a guaranteed income. We also stand firm on the demand for radical land reform and for capital to be subordinated to society. People have to come before profit. Every person must have a clear and viable path towards a dignified life.

This assembly will give us an opportunity to discuss the unemployment crisis with activists from around the country and, together, to formulate a collective understanding of the situation and a shared set of demands and a programme of struggle that can take us forward.

We will have very high profile speakers from the progressive wing of the trade union movement and from Abahlali baseMjondolo. Black Consciousness stalwart Dr. Aubrey Mokoape will also speak. We have also invited a speaker from the socialist movement in the UK and some radical academics, including a leading feminist thinker, from South Africa to join the conversation. We will welcome all representatives of the non-sectarian left, i.e. those who are committed to building popular movements, and solidarity between movements, and do not try by all means, including very dirty means, to ruin what they cannot rule.

The assembly will, for the first time, give the unemployed a chance to speak for themselves about their pain, their frustration and their daily struggles to survive. For too long the unemployed have just been seen as statistics when it comes to questions about work and as ‘lumpens’ when it comes to questions about politics. We are human beings, full blown political subjects, who have the same right as everyone else to a dignified life and full participation in the political life of the country.

The assembly will also include a tribunal where evidence will be led from the unemployed against the state and capital.

It will also include a detailed discussion about the political repression in Marikana and in Durban and ways in which we can develop real solidarity with each other as our struggles face serious repression from Zuma’s brutal regime.

The unemployed are treated as animals, as rubbish. This has to stop and we are determined to make it stop. However this will not be a place for demagoguery and dangerously simplistic solutions. We are highly aware that nationalisation on its own will not solve the crisis of unemployment and poverty if nationalisation just means handing banks and mines over to a predatory elite. We are clear that the economy has to be democratised and socialised.

Bheki Buthelezi 060 457 8971

Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462

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