The decision by the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) in late 2013 to break its long-standing alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its political partner, the South African Communist Party (SACP), represents a watershed moment for left and progressive forces in South Africa. For the first time since the democratic breakthrough in 1994, there is a very real possibility of forging a mass-based and sustained, united front of action for labor and community struggles. Translating possibility into practice will be difficult. Even if there is much in the rich history of labor-community alliances that can be reclaimed, there are many obstacles. What contemporary labor-community alliances that do exist are extremely weak, and there are a variety of disconnections between unionized workers and the “other” (community-based) working class. Regardless, the combination of the “NUMSA moment,” the ongoing fracturing of the ANC’s political and ideological hegemony and a renewed militancy among the broad working class in conditions of consistent socioeconomic crisis have opened the doors not just for new labor-community alliances but also for a broad working class–led movement to mount a serious political challenge to the ANC and the state it controls.

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