What's really behind this?

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Joined: 15-04-06
Feb 1 2008 14:02
What's really behind this?

I'm curious what's really behind this row?
Xolani Xundu, The Times, 1 February 2008

A top South African Communist Party leader has labelled Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary, a “Trotskyite who wants to drive the federation in the province into the hands of the Democratic Alliance”.

On Tuesday last week SACP Western Cape secretary Khaya Magaxa wrote this in a letter to Ehrenreich and copied it to all Cosatu affiliates in the province , including SACP branches, Cosatu provincial office bearers, and to SACP and Cosatu headquarters.

In the letter, Magaxa also accused Ehrenreich of being a “renegade”, “an unaccountable leader” and of leading “a group of friends in the fringe-left coalition, ultra- left(ists), who continue to foment a crisis in the alliance ” with the purpose of getting the workers as far away from the SACP and the ANC as possible.

He said the reason for this was that Ehrenreich and his “ultra-leftist” friends were not members of the SACP or the ANC.

“To us, this is a right-wing tendency disguised as ultra-leftism,” he wrote.

Magaxa went on to say that Ehrenreich’s invitation to DA leader Helen Zille to address a Cosatu shop-steward council meeting demonstrated that he had right- wing tendencies disguised as ultra- leftism .

He added that this invitation indicated that Ehrenreich was not only bringing right- wing elements into Cosatu, but that he wanted to get as many workers away from the SACP and the ANC and deliver them to the DA “sooner than we think”.

Ehrenreich, he said, wanted to reduce the SACP “into a child that needs to be told what to do ”.

“We wish to make it clear that the SACP is the political party of the workers and the poor, and that it is not an ungovernable Cosatu affiliate,” says Magaxa .

“The behaviour of Comrade Tony is no different to the one of comrade Leon Trotsky who fomented a crisis in the Soviet Union, creating factions and fighting the leadership under the guise of defending the revolution,” Magaxa wrote in the letter.

Ehrenreich refused to comment, saying he wanted to discuss the contents of the letter with Magaxa first.

The attack on Ehrenreich comes at a time when Cosatu is preparing for its national congress next year.

This will be preceded by provincial congresses during which Ehrenreich’s position might be contested

Sifuna Zonke's picture
Sifuna Zonke
Joined: 7-05-07
Feb 2 2008 12:09

One of our comrades had this to say:

"I don't know much about Ehrenreich or his agenda, but this is completely typical Alliance bullshit. *Anyone* who doesn't toe the party line is described as trot, ultra-leftist, anarchist or syndicalist; and at the same time as a crypto-capitalist, racist, agent of the DA and of international imperialism. Since there are at least two party lines in the alliance, and probably more, they end up throwing these insults at each other all the time.
Probably doesn't help much in answering the question, but it's kind of general background. Why did Ehrenreich invite Zille to a meeting? Who knows? But it's no better or worse in principle than inviting Mbeki or Zuma. Cape Town politics are so out of sync with the rest of the country that it's hard to figure this one out."

Joined: 15-04-06
Feb 2 2008 15:06

Thanks. The "feel" of the attack seemed to indicate a certain tactical approach which the Alliance (and others) use to dirty critics names.

OliverTwister's picture
Joined: 10-10-05
Feb 3 2008 09:10
wikipedia wrote:
The DA won 14.8% of the vote in the local government elections held on March 1, 2006 and regained control of the City of Cape Town from the ANC, the only Metropolitan Council in South Africa not controlled by the ANC.

This might help with context. It seems that the DA is the party of government in Cape Town.

Joined: 6-04-07
Feb 4 2008 14:08

I speak under correction, but I seem to recall that Ehrenreich is indeed a Trotskyist, and was part of an organised "workerist" (but non-syndicalist) faction that was either expelled from or curbed within Cosatu in the late 1980s - to the tune of much of this sort of shrill Stalinist denunciation. In practice and in my chatting to him, I find Ehrenreich to be a decent sort, far more concerned with real working-class issues than with elitist Alliance manoeuvering. The fact that Trotskyism has a historical stronghold in the Western Cape does influence the debate and bolster his position. Regarding the Zille invitation: Magaxa wouldn't be chewing Ehrenreich out on this if he'd invited a right-populist like Zuma. And what if such an address gave the workers a chance to challenge Zille - who is Cape Town Metro Mayor after all - on her housing and developmental policies? Would that not be a good thing? Ehrenreich seems to have a good reputation among workers, which is why he's where he is. That the Party doesn't like that is just sour grapes. I'd personally support Ehrenreich against this slanderous false analysis of the communist Left - which includes the ZACF and the Trotskyists - that the SACP keeps spouting.

Joined: 15-04-06
Feb 4 2008 14:39


was part of an organised "workerist" (but non-syndicalist) faction...

Ah, he was part of the FOSATU wing of the movment.

I remember the only really left-wing political publication from S.A. was the Trotskyist
"Searchlight South Africa". Critical of the ANC, SACP and so forth.

I see there's a link for SAA at

I'd be interested to hear more about the current on-ground situation in SA.