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RED ALERT
Reconfiguration from below: SACP takes responsibility, builds democratic popular power, contests elections in Metsimaholo
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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 5, No. 61, 02 August 2006

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Communist Activism and the Building of a Progressive Women’s Movement: Celebrating 50 years of the historic 9 August 1956 Women’s March

By: Blade Nzimande, General SecretaryThe Red Pen

The weekend of 29-30 July 2006 marked the culmination of the SACP’s month-long 85th anniversary celebrations. The highlight of our anniversary activities were the Red Saturday demand for a once-off amnesty for all that are blacklisted by the faceless Credit Bureaux,  the holding of our anniversary gala dinner, addressed by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Cde Alec Erwin, and the holding of the national rally in Pietermaritzburg.

The anniversary rally was attended by close to 15 000 people, drawn in the main from Pietermaritzburg and its surroundings, but also attended by hundreds of our comrades from other provinces. The rally was preceded by intense communist mobilisation, including blitzing with pamphlets, loud hailing in local communities, household visits, and face to face contact with many people of our people in and around Pietermaritzburg. The mobilisation was done in line with the proud traditions of communist organisation in our country. It is this type of organisation and mobilisation that has seen the huge successes of our campaigns and the growing membership and support for the SACP amongst millions of our people.

The communist mobilisation capacity we have witnessed in the last few weeks must be maintained, and directed towards taking forward our many campaigns towards the launch of our 2006 Red October Campaign. Most importantly this mobilisation capacity must immediately be directed towards effective participation in the women’s month during this August, which is South Africa’s women’s month.

Wathint’abafazi, wathint’imbokodo: Celebrating the 1956 historic Women’s March

The SACP will be joining millions of women, and indeed all South Africans, in the celebration of the historic Women’s March of 1956 next week. Through this event we truly need to honour all the pioneers of the more than a century old women’s struggles in South Africa, against colonialism, apartheid, women’s oppression and class exploitation. However most critically we need to use this occasion to recommit ourselves to the organisation and mobilisation of South African women from all walks of life, especially women workers and the poor.

The 9 August 2006 celebrations will see the culmination of work that has been done by many progressive women’s and political organisations towards the establishment of a progressive women’s movement in our country. The SACP fully supports and has thrown its full weight behind the formation of such a movement. As we have pointed in our earlier editions of this publication, the SACP is firmly of the view that a progressive women’s movement is of absolute necessity in consolidating and advancing the national democratic revolution.

The SACP’s approach to the building of a progressive women’s movement is guided by our strategic slogan, Socialism is the future, build it now. From the standpoint of the SACP the building of the women’s movement must be part of building capacity for, momentum towards, and elements of, SOCIALISM. The complete emancipation of women must be seen as an integral component of the struggle for socialism, and this is the only basis for consolidating and safeguarding the national democratic revolution. Our strategic perspectives derive from our belief that the main content of the national democratic revolution in the current phase is that of building working class power in all centres of influence and power to address the interrelated challenges of resolving the national, gender and class contradictions in South African society.

The SACP is also firmly of the view that much as these contradictions are, and should not, be collapsed into each other, none can be effectively addressed in isolation from the others. It is also our belief that much as the struggle for gender equality should be waged by women and men, the gender content of our revolution cannot be effectively addressed unless we have a strong, working-class led progressive women’s movement at the head of such a struggle.

Build a progressive women’s organisation from below! Specific role and tasks of the SACP

Communist women have had a long and heroic contribution and role in South African women’s struggles. From the late 1920’s communist women like Ray Alexander and Josie Mpama argued for, and consistently and actively participated in, directing some of the energies of the Party towards women’s organisation in the national liberation struggle and in the struggle for socialism. In addition, someone like Ray Alexander truly played a pioneering role in consistently raising, and struggling for, placing the question of women organisation as a priority in building a progressive trade union movement.

In the 1940’s, Dora Tamana, a communist woman from Cape Town, also played an important role in the mobilisation of women in poor communities around co-operatives and in the building of crèches to look after the children of poor working women.

Again, women communists like Florence Matomela, Josie Mpama and Ray Alexander played a crucial role in the formation and struggles of the Federation of South African Women in the 1950s. All these women communists firmly believed that organisation of women must be a bottom up process, especially driven through the organisation of working class and poor women. The SACP needs to build on this rich legacy, by ensuring that working class and poor rural women become the bedrock of a progressive women’s movement.

Whilst the SACP accepts the logic and necessity to build a progressive women’s movement that unite women across classes, working class women must be at the head of such a movement if it is to effectively respond to the challenges of the true emancipation of women. Failure to stamp the authority of working class women in such a movement can only lead to the hijacking of this movement by elitist and BEE-type interests, thus reproducing and exacerbating the very widening class inequalities in broader South African society. We must struggle against the ‘BEE-isation’ of the women’s movement!

If the working class, in alliance with the landless rural poor, is indeed the leading motive force of our revolution, this must find strong resonance within a progressive women’s movement. Asserting working class leadership is not something achieved through resolutions and boardroom type discussions, but through concrete struggles that energetically take up issues affecting women workers and poor women. It is only by placing the interests of the working class at the centre of a progressive women’s movement that women’s unity can be cemented. This does not mean ignoring the interests of professional and other middle class women, but these have to be subjected to the leadership of working class women.

The progressive women’s movement must be an activist movement, and the SACP is well placed to connect its own activism and campaigns to the building of a women’s movement. The SACP is concerned that the very necessary efforts that have been put into the building of a progressive women’s movement have been somehow pursued bureaucratically, and not driven by grassroots campaigns and activism. We hope that the Launch Conference of the women’s movement, scheduled for 5-8 August 2006, will lay a strong foundation towards addressing this deficiency.

The necessity for working class leadership is also underlined by the fact that there is a growing and disproportionate influence of the middle classes and the bourgeoisie, both black and white, on some of our economic policies and gender perspectives. Currently the more prominent discourses on gender equality and women emancipation are those addressing issues of women from the standpoint of narrow BEE, and elite-driven affirmative action.

In order to achieve the goal of building a women’s movement from below, it is important that the SACP use the platform of its own campaigns (financial sector transformation, building co-operatives, land and agrarian transformation, etc) to organise women and bring their perspectives to bear on the women’s movement as a whole. These campaigns have already mobilised hundreds of thousands of ordinary women, in stokvels, in burial societies, in the church societies and other co-operative and grassroots socio-economic activities. The only consistent platform for building a progressive women’s movement is by taking up issues that daily confront women, especially working class and poor women.

The SACP also has a specific responsibility to bring to bear its own ideological perspectives into this movement. This should be done through a consistent Marxist-Leninist analyses of women’s and gender struggles, including sustained political education and cadre development programmes, especially for working class women.

It is also important for the SACP to consistently point out that we should not make the mistake of thinking that women are already not organised in various activities to advance their own interests. The challenge is how to harness these into a progressive women’s movement.

As part of its contribution to this effort, and in celebration of the heroic struggles of the women of 1956, the SACP will be convening district women and gender forums during the month of August 2006, to plan its own strategies for building a working class led progressive women’s movement.

We shall keep the Red Flag flying, with and for the ordinary women of our country and the world!

 

SACP Response to ANC Today, 21 July 2006

Has the SACP declared war on black capitalists and the People’s Republic of China?

The latest engagement in ANC Today with the SACP Central Committee Discussion Document is melodramatically entitled: “Our 21st century Marxists declare war on black capitalists” (July 21, 2006). We are pleased, of course, to find that there is a sustained engagement with our discussion document. But we are disappointed that this latest contribution is not trying to facilitate comradely debate about what is a complex and challenging matter. After all, it is not just the SACP that has been expressing concern about the challenges and complexities of seeking to advance a national democratic programme on a terrain dominated by domestic and global capitalism.

Recent ANC conferences, the ANC NGC of 2005, and the most recent ANC NEC (of July 21 to 22) have all devoted considerable time to the question of how one safeguards the integrity of our movement and our strategic programme on a terrain in which power and resources are disproportionately concentrated in the hands of those who (whatever their personal disposition, race or gender) are objectively compelled by the laws of the capitalist market to maximise profit and intensify labour exploitation. ANC conferences have all expressed concern about the dangers of corruption, careerism, the “buying” of members, and of corporate capture of our movement.

Instead of engaging the serious points raised in the SACP discussion document in order to foster a collective debate and unify ourselves around a common programme, the latest ANC Today polemic side-tracks down a route with which we have become all too familiar. The SACP’s position is misrepresented, sarcasm is heaped upon this misrepresentation, and then, as always, the “crowning blow” comes when we are accused of sharing the same agenda as the “enemy”- in this case “white capital”! This kind of intervention is diversionary and it serves a denialist agenda – “nothing is going wrong”, “everything is on track”.

So, let us, once more, try to start a discussion about the real challenges we all face.

Does the bourgeoisie ever play a progressive historical role?

A sound Marxist answer to this question is, in fact, an affirmative: YES. This might be surprising to those who have not read The Communist Manifesto. But Marxism has never denied the potentially progressive role of the bourgeoisie. This role consists essentially in its progressive historical role in developing the forces of production – these forces of production include technology, science and even the formation of a modern proletariat itself.

But Marxism has always understood the role of the bourgeoisie dialectically. Its progressive side is always shadowed, and very often overwhelmed, by its barbarism. The heroic, globe-circling advance of the forces of production spurred on by capitalist development is always unleashed in the interests of accumulating private profit. Land dispossession, genocide and wage slavery, colonialism, imperialism, world wars, and now, increasingly, the headlong destruction of our environment and of the very conditions for any kind of human civilisation whatsoever – these are all the direct manifestations of the intrinsically anarchic and barbaric nature of capitalism. Different capitalist strata, different historical phases, different geographical and national realities, the potential role of a democratic (or even socialist) state and of working class and popular struggle in curbing and strategically directing private capital, all of these play a role in determining the relative balance of progressiveness and barbarism of capital at any particular time.

The central question of modern socialism – for its pioneers in the mid-19th century and for today’s “21st century Marxists” (and we proudly wear that mantle) – is: How do we harness the progressive advances of capitalist development, while wresting these away from the barbaric grip of private profit maximisation and labour exploitation? How do we increasingly socialise our economy? How do we build (to use ANC language) a “caring” society in which production is increasingly premised on social need and not private profit?

This is the broad framework from which the CC discussion paper approaches the question of emerging black capitalist strata in our society, and present state policies related to this emergence.

To what extent is this emergent capitalist strata contributing to the development of the forces of production? To what extent is it creating new jobs? To what extent is its emergence helping to transform the systemic features of a century of capitalist development in South Africa? These systemic features include, amongst other things:

  • Excessive dependence on the export of primary commodities, and therefore vulnerability to global market price fluctuations for these commodities;
  • Excessive import dependence, particularly a dependence on imported capital goods and luxury consumables;
  • Our distance from major markets – which is not merely a geographical “fact”, but the result of three centuries of colonial under-development and of the way in which South African capitalism has been inserted into global circuits of wealth accumulation;
  • A limited national market;
  • A limited regional market, partly the result of the predatory, sub-imperialist role of South African capital in the region;
  • Major skills deficits;
  • A propensity to move towards capital intensity and away from labour intensity;
  • Extremely high levels of structural unemployment;
  • The tendency for a highly polarized economy to be continually reproduced – (the so-called “two economies”), with extremes of wealth and poverty.
No doubt there are examples of emergent black capital playing a progressive, developmental role, contributing here and there to the transformation of some of these systemic features, but current BEE policies are doing little to promote such a role. They seem rather to be premised on the assumption that fostering a black capitalist stratum is a good thing in its own right - regardless of the actual objective role that this stratum plays. Nowhere in its current polemical engagement with the SACP, does the ANC Today article provide any examples of how BEE capital is playing a transformational role.

The Freedom Charter

It is not just the SACP’s position that is distorted through partial quotes and elided clauses taken out of context by the ANC Today article. It also subjects the Freedom Charter to the same surgery. Consider the following passage:

“For its part, our movement continues to be guided by such proposals as are spelt out in the Freedom Charter where it says: ‘All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and enter all trades, crafts and professions…The state shall help the peasants with seeds, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers…”

There are at least two interesting things about this quote.

In the first place, everyone in “our movement” (it is ours’ too) knows very well that the first sentence taken from the Freedom Charter comes from a longer clause that begins by asserting that:

THE PEOPLE SHALL SHARE IN THE COUNTRY’S WEALTH! The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people;

And then (only then) the Freedom Charter adds:

“All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions.”

The SACP fully supports this basic right, which seeks to remove racial discriminations of the past. But we must not confuse this individual right with an economic programme for growth, development and general national democratic transformation. Our democratic state must certainly ensure that all of the rights enshrined in the Freedom Charter are upheld, including the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, disability or creed in the choice of profession or trade. But nowhere does the Freedom Charter say that a people’s government must roll-out an extensive economic programme to foster the development of a black bourgeoisie. Such a programme MIGHT be advisable, but you will find little justification for it in the Freedom Charter.

In fact, it is quite obvious that the Charter opposes many of the major features of current BEE – for instance, the transfer of shares in the big mining houses, banks and other monopolized sectors of the economy to a select black few as opposed to “the people as a whole”. The Charter would also certainly be opposed to black elite empowerment based on privatization proceeds. In other words, at least as far as the Freedom Charter is concerned, the equal right to trade where we choose does not include the right to amass private wealth in key strategic sectors of the economy.

Now the fact that the Freedom Charter - the one endorsed in 1955 at Kliptown and not an amputated version of it – asserts these things does not prove that they are necessarily appropriate in 2006. That in itself is an important debate. But if we are going to invoke the Freedom Charter, as the ANC Today article does, then let’s invoke what it actually says.

The land shall be shared among those who work it!

The second interesting fact about the ANC Today article’s reference to the Freedom Charter is the interpretation it seeks to give to the Charter’s commitment to state assistance to the peasantry:

“The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers;”

The ANC Today article tries to give the impression that this is an example of how the Freedom Charter seeks to build an emergent black capitalist class, or, at the very least, a rural petty bourgeoisie accumulating on the capitalist market.

Again, the Charter suffers from major surgery and serious misreading.

Let’s remind ourselves of where this quoted sentence is located within the broader Freedom Charter. It is to be found in the clause entitled: “THE LAND SHALL BE SHARED AMONG THOSE WHO WORK IT!” and the clause then proceeds:

“Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger;

The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers; Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land; All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose…”


This is definitely not a “BEE” agenda of creating a new black farming capitalist class. It is about a radical land reform programme involving “all the land” (and not the 4% currently transferred, or the ambitious 30% we have committed ourselves to transferring by 2014). The Charter is calling for “all the land” to be transferred not to a new class of exploiters, but to those who “WORK it”, the “tillers”. It is not calling for a piecemeal market process of transferring land from ‘willing sellers’ to ‘willing buyers’. The strategic priority of this radical land reform programme is not a quota of black capitalist owners, but social (and even environmental) needs – “to banish famine and land hunger”, “to save the soil and assist the tillers”. It is prioritizing social need over private profit.

It is also not simply a rights-based approach to agrarian reform – of the kind that tended to dominate the first five year post-1994 of land restitution. Land reform requires not just the transfer of land but an active and supportive state that provides implements, seed, tractors and infrastructure.

Once again, the Freedom Charter provides no support whatsoever for the views advanced by the ANC Today article. We might legitimately debate the detailed relevance and practical implications of what the Charter is advocating in terms of land reform. However, what remains absolutely valuable for the present is the Charter’s broad approach to a social class like the peasantry. The Charter is advancing a programme of transforming the countryside based on an alliance of the rural poor and a democratic state. It is a programme that is non-capitalist in character, in which social need is hegemonic over private profit, and in which the owners of land are those who “work it”, the direct producers themselves.

All of this completely escapes the comprehension of the ANC Today article, trapped as it is in the assumption that all productive activity must be capitalist – at least until we reach some distant “stage” called “socialism”.

Building an economy in which meeting social needs is the strategic priority

And it is precisely for this reason that the ANC Today article radically misunderstands the SACP CC discussion document’s approach to productive activity in the so-called “second economy”. The article quotes from the SACP CC discussion document in which we say that we should NOT “condemn small-scale entrepreneurial activity. In fact, it is the only chance of survival for millions of South African households.” And the ANC Today article goes on to note that we point out that many SACP campaigns have focused precisely on such small-scale “entrepreneurship” – “in coops, in building sustainable communities and in focusing on household food security, on people’s land committees and other forms of popular power.” The point of our campaigns has been to seek routes to household security and to overcoming the bitter reality of under-development through means other than the futile pursuit of capitalist market viability. The effects of this futile pursuit is there for all to see, rising unemployment, continued enrichment of an elite, both black and white, and the consequent widening of the gap between the rich and the poor!

The ANC Today article simply can’t get its mind around these Charterist perspectives. Instead it pronounces sarcastically:

“In the context of Marxist theory, this [the fact that the SACP has been campaigning around coops, sustainable household food gardens, etc] means that the SACP is actively involved in developing bourgeois relations of production. Seemingly embarrassed by this reality, which it should not be, it makes the meaningless assertion that such ‘capitalist accumulation’ [this is a misquote] should be ‘subordinated to the popular mandate of the national democratic state and the broader hegemony of the working class’ [this IS an accurate quote]".

In our view this is not merely a theoretical debate. It goes to the heart of many of the most pressing and practical challenges we are facing as a society. Take, for instance, the challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some 5 million South Africans are living with HIV. Each year, some 400,000 South Africans are dying of AIDS-related illnesses. Poor families and poor communities are being ravaged by this epidemic. Our democratic state, on its own, simply cannot cope with the scale of the devastation. Our public institutions cannot on their own care for all of the seriously ill, or for assisting devastated survivors, families headed by children or the aged, themselves in need of assistance. It is for this reason that we have (correctly) placed considerable emphasis on home-based care, and on building community networks of helpers.

Feminists have long argued that under capitalism (and also under much of formerly existing socialism) “reproductive” labour, performed mostly by women, has gone unpaid, unacknowledged, and unaccounted for in the national GDP. This is true enough. But we need to take the argument further. What makes this labour RE-productive? It is reproductive from the perspective of capitalist accounting – which considers as productive labour only labour that directly produces a capitalist profit. Other labour, if it is noticed at all (say a peasant woman scratching a meager subsistence for a family out of a tiny plot of land in a Bantustan) is “reproductive” if it helps to reproduce the conditions for continued capitalist accumulation – (i.e. feeds the next generation of “cheap” male migrant labourers). But if we view matters from the perspective of the peasant family and not from the perspective of the bourgeoisie, then toil in the family field IS productive labour. It might not be labour that generates a capitalist profit, but it is labour to meet a pressing social need.

Home-based care must be affirmed, it must be supported by our democratic state, and it must be understood to be socially necessary productive work. It is the same logic and ethic of socially necessary work that we believe should be fostered and supported in a vast array of so-called “second economy” activities – whether stokvels, coops, food gardens, faith-based volunteerism, or even (though this will require considerable local state and community resoluteness) the minibus sector. The alternative paradigm of “mainstreaming into the capitalist economy”, of “willing sellers-willing buyers”, of one-off “recapitalization”, of “incubating” a million township-based” entrepreneurs into so many Bill Gates’s and Mark Shuttleworths is a cruel mirage.

The case of China

In its endeavour to ridicule and silence SACP perspectives by attempting to provoke witch-hunts and sow divisions in every direction, the ANC Today article tells its readers that not only have the SACP and COSATU “declared war” on the black bourgeoisie in South Africa, but we also probably “see socialist China as an enemy of the working class and the victory of socialism in our country.”

Thank you very much for declaring war on our behalf!

The debate around the global impact of the emergence of China as a major world economy is a serious and complex matter that deserves its own extensive and dedicated discussion. The achievements, lessons and contradictory trajectories of the vast socialist market reform process under-way in China since 1978 also deserve an extensive discussion. These matters are being debated in China and within the Communist Party of China itself. (The SACP, by the way, in an ongoing bilateral process with our comrades in the CPC, has engaged in extensive discussions on all of these matters.)

In this response to the ANC Today article we want only to focus on how, once more, it radically misrepresents matters – in this case it is the strategic nature and character of the Chinese economic reform process that are misrepresented. Without going into great detail it is possible to show this by considering a few quotations provided by the ANC Today article itself from the 2002 CPC National Congress address of the former general secretary, Jiang Zemin.

The critical difference between “backwardness” and “underdevelopment”

The ANC Today article tells us that:

“only four years ago, the most senior leadership of the PRC had the humility publicly to speak of the underdevelopment of the PRC, and its limited possibilities, despite the fact that it had become the sixth largest world economy.” (our emphasis)

The ANC Today article then proceeds to quote Jiang Zemin:

"We must be aware that China is in the primary stage of socialism and will remain so for a long time to come. The well-off life we are leading is still at a low level; it is not all-inclusive and is very uneven. The principal contradiction in our society is still one between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the backwardness of social production. Our productive forces, science, technology and education are still relatively backward”

Although Jiang Zemin mentions other challenges (“not all-inclusive”, “very uneven”), he is explicitly identifying as the “principal contradiction” in China, the contradiction between the social (i.e. “material and cultural”) needs of the people and the “low level”, the relative “backwardness” of the productive forces.

After the 1949 revolution, feudalism and what was then a still very backward capitalism were eradicated in the PRC, and an egalitarian society was built in which the ownership of virtually all the means of production was socialised. Serious errors during the period of the “Great Leap Forward” and the Cultural Revolution set back the partial progress made in the 1950s towards developing productive forces. It was against this background that a major shift in strategy commenced in 1978, a strategic shift that still continues today. The socialist market reforms are essentially designed to develop the productive forces (science, technology, education) by allowing capitalist firms to operate within China either through liberalization measures, or through joint public-private ventures, and to allow the market mechanism to operate more widely, including in the relationship between publicly owned enterprises. The strategic objective is to retain a predominance of public ownership, and to safeguard the socialist character of the society, while modernizing the productive capacity of this socialism.

There are, of course, many risks in this strategy – all of which are intensely debated within China itself. Will the new capitalist forces not overwhelm a socialist hegemony? What is the impact on the culture and values of the ruling CPC? (There are growing concerns about corruption scandals, for instance). And what corrective measures are required to counteract the inevitable unevenness of the market mechanism (runaway development in the South East coastal region producing under-development in the more rural Western parts of China with mass population migrations, etc)? These and other issues, including challenges around serious environmental degradation and the flouting of labour legislation by capitalist firms, are all openly debated in China.

The essential point is that, at least in the view of the CPC, an extremely egalitarian but stagnating socialist society was threatened by the backwardness of its forces of production. Addressing this backwardness has become the principal strategic objective of the last 28 years.

The principal strategic challenge facing the South African national democratic revolution since 1994 has been almost the exact inverse! One hundred and thirty years of capitalist development has left us with relatively advanced forces of production, but one of the most unequal societies in the world. Since 1994 there has been another wave of technological advance (not least in IT and telecommunications) and a return to capitalist growth and profitability but persisting (and often deepening) racial and class inequality. By the early 2000s South Africa remained one of the most inequitable countries in the world.

According to Statistics South Africa (2002), for instance, the top 10 percent of our population received 45 percent of the national income, while the poorest 20 percent got 2 percent. Unemployment has hovered around crisis levels of 40 percent and the share of employed people earning under R1000 a month has remained almost unchanged at around 45 percent. Unemployment and low incomes remain concentrated in the African population. In 2004 unemployment for Africans, using the broad definition of unemployment, was 48 percent compared to 8 percent for whites. The share of income accruing to workers worsened between 1994 and 2004 – remuneration in national income fell from 50 percent to 45 percent, while net operating surplus accruing to bosses rose from 26 to 32 percent.

Over the last century, and over the last decade, capitalist development in South Africa has always actively reproduced systemic class, gendered and racialised underdevelopment. Underdevelopment is not the same thing as undeveloped, or backward. Backwardness is the consequence of being bypassed by development, underdevelopment is actively caused by particular forms of development. This is the critical difference in the principal challenges facing China and South Africa.

The Chinese have NOT liberalised sectors of their economy, or opened up to capitalist market forces in other ways, in order to create an indigenous Chinese capitalist stratum – although this will be an inevitable secondary consequence of their reforms. They have opened up to capitalist enterprise because, as the ANC Today article recognizes, capitalist enterprises own productive capacities and socialism needs to tap into these:

“The ‘genius’ displayed by the CPC and the PRC when they announced in 1978 the adoption of the ‘open door policy’, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, consisted in recognising that the ‘stored financial and intellectual capital’, the material base for the ‘development of productive forces’, was not owned exclusively or even mainly by the state, or the public sector. In reality, then as now, much capital is in private hands. Consequently, the development of the productive forces in any country, including socialist China, requires the mobilisation of these privately owned resources, both domestically and internationally.”

But what have some of our BEE policies been doing? They have been doing the opposite. They have been mobilising privately owned domestic and international resources NOT so much into order to develop the productive forces of our country, but to develop a black South African bourgeoisie. And in order to do this there has been a net reduction of capital available for productive investment, as many new BEE ventures are launched through one or another form of debt. This is a point made by the SACP CC discussion document, and it is, indeed, a point made by the ANC’s own economics discussion paper discussed at last year’s ANC NGC.

The ANC Today article scoffs at this point:

“it is patently obvious that, after centuries of dispossession, the black population could never have the possibility to ‘accumulate its own capital through the unleashing of productive processes’ as the SACP discussion document demands”.

We largely agree with this, but then it doesn’t take a Chinese ‘genius’ to recognise that whatever else you may be doing by way of correcting historical injustices or meeting the individual aspirations of an emerging elite, leveraging existing capital resources from where they exist to where they don’t exist in order to create a new black bourgeois stratum is very different from (and may even be counter-productive to) building our national productive forces.

In order to learn about the potential pitfalls of compradorism and parasitism that are inherent in promoting an indigenous bourgeois class as a key strategic objective in its own right it is not to China that we should turn, but rather to Kenya’s ‘Africanisation’

programme, or to Malaysia’s New Economic Policy (NEP). In the latter case, NEP was introduced in 1970 as an affirmative action policy for Malays. There is now in Malaysia considerable debate about the merits of the policy. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was quoted last year as saying that it had ‘imbued Malays not with the spirit of entrepreneurship, as intended, but with a proclivity for rent-seeking.’ The former Prime Minister, and guiding spirit of the programme, Dr Mahatir Mohamed, has also become increasingly critical of the programme, describing it as a “failure”. The Economist noted in August 2005 that:

‘perhaps the biggest failing of the NEP…is the culture of cronyism it has engendered. Earlier this year, when authorities revealed the list of Malays granted lucrative permits to import foreign cars, the main beneficiaries turned out to be former officials of the Ministry of Trade…Since 1990 the Malay share of equity has stagnated at about 20 percent, despite all manner of government incentives to raise it. Blame lies partly with the Asian crisis of 1997…[but] the rent-seeking the prime minister complained of also plays a part: Malays snap up the shares reserved for them in initial public offerings, for example, and then sell them at a profit.’

Sounds familiar?

But this ANC Today article deeply reflects the theoretical and programmatic schizophrenia of the dominant class project within the ANC and the state. On the one hand it argues for consolidation of capitalist relations as the only route to consolidating the national democratic revolution. On the other hand, whilst denying that it has any socialist intentions, wants to project itself as if it is pursuing the same route as Lenin during the NEP period or China in the present period, as if it were the very socialist organization it denies it is! The intention however is the same, an attempt at delegitimising the SACP’s struggle for socialism and to justify pursuit of restoration of capitalist profitability as the only route towards strengthening the national democratic revolution. Neither the SACP nor the overwhelming majority of our people will be fooled by this!

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