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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 2, 21 January 2004

In this Issue:


Red Alert

The ANC Election Manifesto…With and For the Workers and the Poor

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

The South African Communist Party (SACP) welcomes the ANC Election Manifesto for four reasons:

  • Commitment to create work
  • Focus on fighting poverty
  • Emphasis on the leading and activist role of the state and the broader public sector in the economy
  • Emphasis on the need for sustained mobilisation of our people to drive the implementation of the manifesto
  • Its openness and frankness about the challenges facing our country and its recognition that we can still do more

An Important Platform for the Workers and the Poor

The Business Times section of the 11 January edition of the Sunday Times was quite pleased with its headline announcement that the ANC Election Manifesto meant security and stability for the financial markets. For the Business Times, the Manifesto reassured the markets that economic macro-economic fundamentals remain firmly in place.

For the South African Communist Party, the ANC Election Manifesto is sending an important signal, not to the financial markets, but to another market which the Business Times reports less frequently and less enthusiastically about.

For the Communist Party, the manifesto is not just a list of promises thrown around during an election campaign but an important set of commitments which poor working people can use to advance their interests and strategic goals.

Indeed, the manifesto and its implementation strategy will be one of the most important indicators regarding whether the South African economy continues to be in favour of the capitalist classes (who are a tiny minority) or millions of poor and working people in our country.

Unemployment, Job Creation and the Role of the State

Over the last ten years close to a million workers in South Africa have lost their jobs. Unemployment and job losses were already a well-established trend long before 1994 as a result of apartheid and capitalist economic restructuring.

Hundreds of thousands more have suffered worsening work conditions - with casualisation, contracting out, outsourcing, and growing arrogance from management. Drastic measures must be taken to stop this bloodbath through a job-creating economy driven by a strong and interventionist public sector. And thus the importance of what the manifesto says regarding job creation and the role of the state and the para-statal sector in job-creating investment.

The agreements reached at the Growth and Development Summit (GDS) and the post-GDS government announcements on infrastructure investment lay a strong basis for a state-led strategy for job creation, economic growth and development.

But we are living in a capitalist country, and every working class victory is always met with a counter-attack. In 1994 the bosses were on the retreat, the overwhelming victory of the working class against apartheid, massive resource transfers to the poor, the establishment of a progressive labour market policy, etc. silenced them for a while. To subvert our democratic social and economic gains, the bourgeoisie deliberately restructured the workplace so that fewer and fewer workers are actually benefiting from our victories. Now, as the Business Times article shows, the bosses want to put their stamp on what the Manifesto says. This means that they will seek to put their profit interests first at the expense of the needs of the majority even in the area of job-creation: through arguing for a two-tier labour market, unregulated working conditions and labour relations, low wages, indecent and exploitative work.

What the Business Times will not shout loud is the fact that at the core of job losses and unemployment is the long-standing investment strike in South Africa. South African bosses are not putting the profits that workers produce back into the job-creating real economy:

  • big companies have been disinvesting, going to the London Stock Exchange & Wall Street in USA
  • during the 1990s, government substantially reduced company tax, but there is no sign that this has been put back into job-creating investments.
  • At the same time, year after year, profits on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange have been amongst the highest in the world. This is where the surplus workers have created has been going!

Our emphasis on state-led economic growth through industrial policy, as a priority focus of economic policy, derives from our conviction that “market forces” are fundamentally incapable of promoting anything other than a highly distorted and stunted development of productive forces in former colonial or semi-colonial countries like our own. Indeed, we are convinced that the central lesson of the experience of the very small number of cases where former colonial or semi-colonial countries have achieved some measure of industrial development is that this can only be achieved by policy-driven interventions directed at extensive “market failures” in the developmental process.

These “failures” derive, in reality, from the priorities of profit maximisation under capitalism, and they include:

  • A failure by private capital and profit maximising enterprises, of their own volition, to plan, invest in and lead economic infrastructure projects that are often critical to promoting investment in productive enterprises
  • A failure by both domestic and foreign capital to invest in viable projects to create strategic industrial capacity or otherwise develop productive forces in developing countries or “emerging markets” ahead of a proven record of profitability
  • A failure to initiate and lead strategy development at sectoral or value-chain level
  • A failure to address a broad range of developmental backlogs and introduce work-place transformations to raise the capacities and skills of working people.

What this underlies is the strategic necessity for the state and the parastatal sector to play a leading role in the economy. The Manifesto commitment in this regard must be taken forward through more public investments and through consolidating the public sector. In addition, private capital must be engaged, directed and disciplined to invest in the economy. State-led economic infrastructure development programmes will be critical in realizing many of the objectives outlined in the Manifesto. It is important that the Manifesto commits at least R100 billion from the state and parastatal resources for such investment.

What will be critical therefore will be the mobilisation of public, social and private capital behind a defined strategy by means of, inter alia, incentives and regulatory measures.

Sustainable Livelihoods and Communities

The current levels of poverty, inequality and systemic unemployment act a major restraint on any growth and development. Therefore we also have another massive challenge: that of seeking to build communities and livelihoods which are decent, tolerable and sustainable within a sustainable growth and development strategy that includes a focus on:

  • building self-sustainable communities;
  • building a progressive co-operative movement;
  • stimulating local economies, including stimulating local consumption and trade;
  • fostering training and skills development;
  • public works programmes;
  • addressing the social deficit and not just the budget deficit; and
  • engendering our overall approach to economic growth and development.

The concept of sustainable livelihoods recognises that there are substantial community-based, social, budget and para-statal resources, and not just private sector capital.

The need to Deepen Working Class Struggles and Build Working Class Power in the Economy and all of Society

The masses of poor and working people, which the ANC is biased towards and largely represents, must consciously develop their capacity, confidence an programme to implement the manifesto after the elections.

  • We must consolidate and re-build our trade union structures so that workers are protected.
  • We must build co-operatives which our people can own and control themselves rather than subsidising the super profits of South African capital.
  • Workers must demand a say in how their retirement and pension funds are invested. This must also include the democratic ownership and control of medical aids, and other financial institutions.
  • We must intensify the struggle to stop job losses.
  • We must continue with the struggle to defend and extend the public sector to meet social needs

To do all these things, workers and poor people must build their mass power through a strong ANC, COSATU, Communist Party and mass organisations rooted where we live, work and study. In this way, the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance, based on the bedrock of poor and working people, can also remain a united and powerful force to continue leading our country's transformation away from a capitalist-dominated and apartheid past towards a people-based economy. It is on the basis of a united alliance and working class leadership that we can talk about a broad partnership with other sectors in society.

It is all of the above that we regard as the main content of a “people’s contract”.

The neo-liberal challenge

Progressive perspectives on the economy and the state are constantly challenged, hi-jacked or undermined by very different approaches to the role of the state. In particular, there is the constant challenge of the globally hegemonic neo-liberal paradigm, with its “new public management” perspectives, backed by powerful multi-lateral institutions (like the World Bank), and by hundreds of energetic “consultancies” and “aid agencies” of all kinds.

Underpinning these endeavours is the ideological assumption that the state should be “strong”:

  • insofar as its capacity to force through potentially unpopular structural adjustment measures is concerned (liberalisation, privatisation, budget deficit reduction, retrenchments); and
  • insofar as the protection of the property and investments of transnational and national corporations is concerned.

However, the state, in this paradigm, should as much as possible, leave economic growth and social delivery to “market” forces. Hence the constant themes of “user pays”, “market determined pricing”, “introducing competition into social delivery”, and, of course, privatisation.

This paradigm, in its approach to the institutional structuring and management of the public sector, tends also to treat the public sector as if it were (or should be) carved-up into profit-making, stand-alone corporations (no doubt, mostly with a view to selling them off, sooner or later, as a new terrain for private profit-taking). Hence:

  • the tendency to fragment the state, or state departments, or parastatals, into dozens of “agencies” and “business units”, focused on “core business”;
  • the tendency to approach public service work in narrow, market-driven ways – the financialisation of performance assessment and reward; and
  • the tendency to assess the performance of parastatals on whether they have made “an annual profit”.

The neo-liberal paradigm under-cuts what is critical and central about the national democratic state – namely, it is (potentially) a public entity, capable of being organised and motivated around a long-term, strategic public mandate, i.e. politics and not “market-forces” can (and must) be the primary motivating force for the state and its hundreds of thousands of cadres. Anything less than this will simply imprison us within our existing path of underdevelopment, of skewed accumulation and of dis-accumulation.

We welcome and support the ANC Manifesto because it lays a strong foundation towards a state-led, people’s economy with and for the workers and the poor.

Vote ANC! ... With and For the Workers and the Poor!

Political Parties and Social Movements: An in-vogue issue

by Jose Reinaldo Carvalho, Vice-president of Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), responsible for International Relations, http://www.pcdob.org.br

For the third consecutive year, the Seminar of Communist Parties from Latin America and Europe was held. This time the meeting took place in the Chilean capital, Santiago, still echoing the activities concerning the 30th anniversary of the murder of Salvador Allende and the installation of General Pinochet’s fascist military dictatorship. It is notable the amount of journalistic, memorial and academic works published in the Andean country on the eminent socialist leader and the period of the Popular Unity administration, when the alliance between the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and other revolutionary left-wing forces lived a pioneering democratic and popular experience in Southern Latin America in the beginning of the 1970’s.

In the previous meetings of the Seminar, the first one in Montevideo and the second in Buenos Aires, the debate was concentrated respectively on the policy of communist alliances and the struggle within the scope of super-national spaces, which, in the case of Latin America, encompasses the work of Mercosur’s political forces and other levels of regional articulation. In the last occasion, the debate focused on the relations between political parties and the social movements, an opportune issue, an in-vogue and very up-to-date one, since the 4th World Social Forum begins this week in Mumbai, India.

The communists rank first the mass movements and value the work with them and among them as a strategic one. Our revolutionary conception assumes as a principle–one proven by our long trajectory of political and social struggles during more than one and a half century–that the popular masses, not personalities and singular political organizations, are the subjects of history, the main actors of emancipating deeds.

We also view as a principle the fact that the social struggle, under the conditions imposed by capitalism, even more in its neo-liberal stage, would be hampered in case it is restricted to limited and partial objectives. In a society where social and national oppression prevails, the social movement must reach an anti-capitalist scope, class content and character and revolutionary consistence. It must also adopt programmatic positions related to the struggle for a new society–one must say, for a new political power. Therefore, the social struggle and the political struggle, the social movement and the political party, cannot be considered in an isolated form. “Do not say that the social movement exclude the political one. There can never be a political movement that is not at the same time a social one”, said Marx in “Misery of philosophy”. Today, when a “new movement” is discussed, the “movement of all movements”, it is something that is valid as long as the new conditions of the period we live are taken into account; what is not valid is to oppose the social movement to the political one, the social organizations to progressive and revolutionary political parties and underrate as “traditional” ones, that is, historically superseded, the class organizations and parties that fight for the revolutionary transformation of society.

Naturally, there have been in the past and there are now mistakes in conception, conduct and method committed by communist parties and other revolutionary forces in their relations to mass movements. Certainly, there are new social circumstances that were not predicted in the classical models of class analysis of society. The world has gone and still goes through changes, what imposes the improvement of our thoughts and the enrichment of our analyses, but, when criticizing those mistakes, one cannot incur in another one, that is, denying the role of the conscious factor of the revolutionary struggle, what will not appear spontaneously, nor even from the “lower levels”, from the “rank and file”. The theory and collective intelligence are indispensable, what will only be obtained by means of the maturing process of revolutionary class political parties.

Presently in Brazil, as in all Latin America and the world, the mass movements are impelled by the resistance to the generalized offensive of the bourgeoisie, to the international reaction and the imperialism, which are against the rights of the peoples, democracy, national sovereignty, security and peace. It is increasingly evident that the destructive development of capitalism will bring barbarism. Its visible effects are the degradation of living standards, social exclusion, deprivation of rights, unemployment, misery, crime, public insecurity and the crisis of urban civilization. In the political field, the international relations are characterized by militarization and war.

The progressive forces are facing the great challenge of understanding such reality, its causes and its sense and, from such understanding, move towards the social movement in a qualified way, plunge into them, lay roots, be connected with them and contribute to point the paths to be followed by the struggle for a new society that overcomes those phenomena, what means to fight for overcoming capitalism.

The World Social Forum, a synthesis of the so-called anti-globalization movement, stands out as an important subject in the present political and social struggles. In its three meetings held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and certainly now in Mumbay, as well as in the street clashes that took place since Seattle, the potentialities of that new movement were revealed, what became evident in the memorable journeys in the struggle against the imperialist war last year. The World Social Forum objectively affirm its role as an anti-globalization, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-war, and, at least in its Latin American branches, as an anti-FTAA movement, despite the facts that that sense is not always clear to the organizations that constitute the WSF and that its decisions are often imprecise, contradictory, confuse and eclectic.

The World Social Forum assumes such characteristics in a very diversified range of organizations, political forces and opinion currents. We communist must act–and we effectively act in this case–considering the WSF as the convergence and meeting point to common action, a field prone to stimulate the unity of the mass movement.

Therefore, any hegemonic and excluding attitudes or intentions to stiffen and artificially turn the WSF into a center of formulation an decision-making will constitute a deformation and will impair the struggle. If it is true that the political and social struggle is more and more global, it is also true that we cannot erase national particularities and that fabricating agendas and mottos that ignore national agendas is counterproductive. In countries such as Brazil, with its character of a continental country dependent to North American imperialism, where social problems mixed with the results of foreign dominations are immense, the national issue has a particularity that cannot be ignored, especially now under the new conditions in which we can observe a new political and social dynamics.

Other trends to be fought against in the broad and united action of the World Social Forum are reformism, the class conciliation and the attempt at domesticating and fragmenting the social struggles, the belittling of the those fights’ class character, as well as the lack of politics, the absence of partyism and the intolerable prejudice against communist and other revolutionary forces.

Those are some considerations made during the seminar in Santiago on the relevant issue of the relations between social movements and political parties. The seminar also served to update the information and opinion exchange between Latin American and European communists on other issues in order to reiterate a common position of emphatically condemning the imperialist war, particularly the occupation of Iraq by the United States. Concerning the developing political situation of Latin America, the seminar’s communiqué highlights: “The wave of struggles in Latin America has given way to popular uprisings in Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia. Such processes are joined by the strengthening of the socialist Cuba, which has been able to defeat the intensification of the United States’ aggressiveness, and also by the defense of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela by its people, who has faced a coup in April of 2002 and the following reiterated destabilizing intents. Likewise, the victory of Lula and his allies in Brazil creates expectations of success in fulfilling the democratic, popular and national tasks proposed to their people. Add to that the two consecutive defeats suffered in the ballots cast against the militarist project of Álvaro Uribe in Colombia and the perspectives of an electoral advance of the left in El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay and Nicaragua. It is evident that history has not reached an end.”


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