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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 5, No. 59, 05 July 2006
In this Issue:

Red Alert

The SACP and the working class must keep their eyes on the ball

By: Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Our Central Committee discussion document (www.sacp.org.za) is indeed generating a lot of debate, both within and outside the ranks of our Party. There is also increasing demand from our Party cadres to allow different forms and types of responses, ranging from the need for comrades to respond in all of our languages, to accommodating different lengths and types of responses. Indeed our comrades must feel free to use any of the official languages of our country in responding to our document, and we will also use all our publication outlets (The African Communist, Umsebenzi, Umsebenzi Online and Bua Komanisi) to publish these responses.

There are two major achievements from our discussion document already. We have reignited a somewhat long overdue debate inside our movement, including responses from the ANC. Our Party is building on its historical role, a leader in initiating important strategic and tactical debates during important phases of our revolution. Without our discussion document, we would not be having the current debates! Much as we disagree with many of the ANC responses thus far, it is at least responding to our document, thus getting an important alliance debate off-the-ground.

The second achievement is that of getting some within our movement to brush off their Marxist texts, much as their responses in the last two editions of ANC Today are nothing but a feeble attempt at the neo-liberalisation of Marxism – selectively using Marx’s Capital to justify a project of restoration of capitalist profitability, as if this were the pre-ordained path for the national democratic revolution.

We also need to make it clear that our document is not necessarily a critique of, or an attack on, the ANC, of which we are a proud part, but an analysis and critique of the dominant class project within the ANC, which has also come to be the dominant political project within the post-apartheid state. As we have said before, in many instances the economic policy differences between the SACP and the state have largely not been about policy differences between the SACP and the ANC, but between the SACP and the dominant political project both within the ANC and the state.

It is therefore important that in our engagements and debates, especially with the ANC, we do not allow the dominant class project within the ANC and the state to vulgarise our document as part of its attempt to reclaim whatever ground it has lost in the recent period, especially since the ANC NGC of July 2005. We must therefore not allow ourselves to be irritated by provocations from this project, like its attempts to discredit the leadership of the SACP, and other falsifications and distortions of our discussion document. These distortions by the project are nothing but a tired rehashing of the 2002 ANC Briefing Notes, which, we must recall, were resoundingly rejected by the branches of the ANC itself.
Therefore today’s column is not so much a response to these provocations and vulgarisation of Marxism, which we shall do at an appropriate time, but to provide the context within which these responses should be understood. It is also to warn SACP cadres that we should not allow ourselves to be distracted from the purpose and aims of our document, as mandated by our Special Nation Congress in April 2005. Nevertheless this should not be read to mean that we should not respond firmly and robustly to the many distortions by the authors of the ANC response to our document. What we are saying, as Cde Gwede Mantashe, a member of our Central Committee and Politburo, is used to saying: Uma sizingela inyamazane, bese kudlula uxamu endleleni, masingaphenduki silandele uxamu, kepha masihlale phezu kwenyamazane” (In short, let’s keep our eyes on the ball!)

We do of course welcome engagements from our allies and other progressive forces on our document. However these engagements should add, rather than substract, from the primary aim of our Discussion Document – to facilitate debate and discussion on the fundamental question of the relationship of the SACP to state power, and the necessity for our Party structures to debate and make up their minds on this question.

The primary purpose of our discussion document

Whilst it is necessary to welcome progressive responses to our document, we must not lose sight of the purpose of producing our discussion document. Our document aims to facilitate a discussion on the question of the relationship of the SACP to state power, in all its dimensions, since the democratic breakthrough of 1994 and beyond. In the course of this debate and engagements we must not lose sight of this overriding objective, and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from it. As a communist party our principal and longer term strategic objective is to capture state power as a key dimension towards the creation of a socialist state.

We have however defined the principal strategic objective in the current phase of our revolution as that of consolidating and deepening a (working class led) national democratic revolution, headed by the ANC. This task is based upon, and guided by, the basic document of our national democratic revolution – the Freedom Charter.

To pose the principal tasks of the current phase of our revolution this way does not mean the postponement of the struggle for socialism, but the reaffirmation of the national democratic revolution as the most direct route to socialism. Hence our strategic slogan, Socialism is the Future, Build it Now. But it is not a given that the course of the national democratic revolution will on its own gravitate towards socialism. The most critical factor in ensuring that this becomes the case is the leadership and hegemony of the working class over the national democratic revolution. Leadership of the working class over the NDR is also not automatic, but is based on the balance of class forces, and the capacity of the working class to stamp its authority over the course of this revolution.
Much as it is necessary to debate with the ANC, we must not lose focus on the need for our Party cadres to answer the main question before us; the relationship of the SACP (and the working class), to state power now, and in the immediate future.

Once more, on the crises of the dominant political project within our movement

It is also important to understand that the responses of the author(s) of the ANC NWC document to the SACP document are perhaps a reflection of the attitude of the dominant political project towards the SACP rather than the attitude of the ANC as a whole. This response, ironically, underlines the correctness of the observations made in our discussion document about this project and its crises. We need to highlight, once more, what our own discussion document says about this project:
“In the course of the 1990s a rift opened up, first within the existing leadership of the SACP, and then between a dominant grouping in the ANC (many of them former SACP comrades) and the remaining SACP [perhaps as well as the rest of the ANC] leadership.

“Everyone agreed (obviously with varying degrees of emphasis) that the optimism of the late 1960s and 1970s no longer applied. Global, regional and even national conditions were not optimal for a rapid advance to and consolidation of socialism in South Africa.

“The debate now turned essentially around what was meant by “uninterrupted” – did it mean:
  • a rapid (and relatively smooth) transition from liberation to socialism? or
    did it refer to the systemic necessity of simultaneously addressing national, class
  • and gender oppression – however, prolonged and contradictory this process might be?
“The school of thought that believed that the former was what was intended by ‘uninterrupted’, argued that since the balance of forces was no longer so propitious for a socialist advance, we were now located within a relatively prolonged ND “stage” – a stage that involved the stabilisation of capitalism, and the fostering of capitalist-driven growth as the necessary condition for accumulating the resources for a redistributive attempt to address the legacy of apartheid.
“From 1996 to the present, this ideological position has succeeded in emerging as the dominant hegemonic position within the ANC-led state. This strategic perspective and its dominance have helped to shape a particular state, a set of class alliances, and a range of practical interventions which we will analyse below. It is also the contention of this discussion paper that there is now a considerable crisis within the post-1996 class project, and we will also seek to analyse this”.
Flowing from the above our discussion document seeks to identify the contradictory nature of this project and the current crises it faces, thus:
“There are now interacting crises within and between all of these main pillars of the presently dominant state project. The growing difficulties and internal contradictions of this project have many causes, among them: 
  • the manifest inability of capitalist stabilisation and growth to resolve the deep-seated social and economic crises of unemployment, poverty and radical inequality in our society;
  • the ravages to the ANC’s organisational capacity and coherence caused by the attempts to assert a managerialist, technocratic control over a mass movement; and
  • the crises of corruption, factionalism and personal careerism inherent in trying to build a leading cadre based on (explicit or implicit) capitalist values and on a symbiosis between the leading echelons of the state and emerging black capital.
“The ANC’s July 2005 National General Council gave vent to these crises in a relatively dramatic if often inchoate manner – with a wide range of quite different grievances and aspirations coming together around support for Jacob Zuma.
“There is now both the necessity and possibility for a major internal ANC and ANC-led alliance review of what has happened and on how to move forward. This debate should not be factionalised, nor should it be unduly personalised”.
We have quoted our document at length again in order to underline the point that the hegemony of this dominant political project was significantly challenged at the July 2005 ANC National General Council. Therefore, this should provide the backdrop against which we seek to debate our discussion document with the ANC.
The Secretary General’s report to the July 2005 ANC NGC, further underlines, and in fact points to what we can regard as the organisational ravages brought by the crisis of the dominant political project within our movement. The ANC SG, Cde Kgalema Montlanthe, incidentally raised some of the issues raised in our document including the following:

“In many of our branches there are no sustainable political programmes and community campaigns. They are conflict-ridden and unstable and in many instances fraught with fights over leadership positions, selection and deployment of councillors, tendering and control of projects and recruitment of membership in order to serve factional or selfish interests.

“In many cases, the reasons for division and the resulting lack of coherent and consistent branch organisation are not rooted in ideological differences. Rather, these problems rest primarily on the preoccupation on the part of public representatives with securing access to and control over public resources. This in turn leads to tensions between cadres deployed in ANC structures and those in government and undermines the effectiveness of our public representatives.

“In many areas, branches lack the coherence and initiative to implement their own programmes of action, which respond to the day-to-day challenges facing members of the communities in which they serve. This failure leads to the oft repeated perception that "ANC only comes at election time", a perception fuelled by the weaknesses of our structures on the ground.

“The access to resources that public office entails can also often undermine our ability to represent communities. In some cases the majority of councillors, having declared their business interests, recuse themselves from meetings that must make important decisions on matters of community development. This means that the communities concerned cannot be represented at these meetings. In this context, we need to pose the question: is it correct for public representatives to have business interests, especially where these interests do not predate their assumption of public office, but have been developed while serving as a representative?”
The Way Forward

As a basis for continued engagement with the ANC at all levels it is therefore important to proceed from the premise of the resolutions of that 2005 NGC, which we believe understood, and simultaneously challenged, what we call the discourse and crisis of the dominant political project within our movement. Those resolutions, from our point of view, provide a firm basis for addressing the many shortcomings identified by the SACP document (and indeed outlined by no less than the Secretary General of the ANC), and can also act as the basis for the renewal and cementing the unity of our alliance.
The July 2005 NGC resolutions are also an important basis for addressing what are clearly emerging as ‘disputes’, if not divergences, on the character and direction of the national democratic revolution. For instance, much as the Freedom Charter is not a socialist document, is it correct to interpret it as implying that the basic task of the ANC in power is to manage capitalist relations?
In engaging with the ANC, it is also important to remind ourselves of the fact that the ANC is a multi-class organisation. At different points in time, depending on the balance of (class) forces, this or that class agenda, may occupy a dominant position, whether it be working class, petty bourgeois or that of the aspirant black sections of the capitalist class. The strength of the ANC precisely lies in the fact that it has been able to unite the widest range of class forces, principally those oppressed under apartheid. In class terms our alliance is an alliance between the working class, the rural poor, the black petty bourgeoisie and the middle classes. But it is precisely in this strength that a potential fault line has sometimes, and still could, emerge.
It is for this reason that our alliance must always be located within specific historical contexts and phases of our revolution, in order to avoid the risk of mythologizing the alliance as a fixated, trans-historical reality. In short our alliance is a contested entity. Whilst as the SACP we re-affirm the relevance of our alliance in the current period, the post 1994 reality poses new challenges that have to be properly analysed and grasped. Otherwise we run the danger of ‘freezing’ the alliance in a manner that would destroy rather strengthen it. Alliances in the context of a struggle to rid South Africa of the apartheid regime, and an alliance for post-apartheid reconstruction, when our movement is in power, are two different conjunctures that pose different challenges.
The very history of our alliance, contrary to the views of its (particularly ex-SACP) mythologisers, has always changed its mode of functioning in line with changing historical realities. Our alliance changed and adapted from the time of the adoption of the Native Republic Thesis in the late 1920’s, through to the radicalisation of the politics of the liberation movement in the 1950’s, during the underground period, and in the early 1990s.


Umsebenzi Online Debates
Abuse of Marx’s Capital to justify right-wing deviation from the NDR:

A response to ANC Today

David Masondo, 

National Chairperson, Young Communist League

The unidentified author’s response to the SACP’s CC Discussion Document published in the ANC Today Online 23rd June 2006 edition, should be treated with extreme caution. The response is very problematic and opportunist because it attempts to use Marx’s Capital to justify anti-working class positions and deviations from the NDR. The author has given an exposition on Marx’s theory of capital accumulation to falsify and distort what the SACP document states. Like any other discussion document, the SACP’s Discussion Document cannot be perfect. However, the deliberate falsification of the SACP document and petty-bourgeois misrepresentation of the NDR cannot go unchallenged.
The author conveniently avoids using Marx’s theoretical categories to analyze the concrete situation in South Africa’s economy since 1994. Drawing from Marx’s theory of capital accumulation we will show how this dominant petty-bourgeoisie within the ANC has implemented neo-liberal economic policies that increased the rate of exploitation of the working class.
Before we do so, let’s first briefly outline what capital accumulation is and how it is carried out by capitalists. Marx defines capital as means of production transformed to exploit labour.  The means of production (land, machines etc) are not inherently capital. They become capital when they are owned privately and used to exploit the working class. Perhaps let us deal with the concept of exploitation by clarifying Marx’s concept of necessary, free and surplus labour. Necessary labour is the amount of labour necessary to reproduce a worker and her dependents regardless of whether a mode of production is capitalist or socialist.  Under capitalism, workers are forced to do unnecessary labor which takes the form of surplus value appropriated by capitalists. Part of the surplus value goes to taxes, interest, rent etc. Necessary labor is required under socialism but it is not forced because direct producers are not subordinated to the power of capital. 
There are fundamental conditions necessary for the exploitation of workers to take place. One of the conditions is the separation of the direct producers from the means of production which are monopolised by the bourgeoisie. Historically direct producers have been dispossessed through the process of primitive accumulation which ‘forced’ them to sell their labour power as a commodity in order to reproduce themselves. This was the basis of colonial and Apartheid dispossession whereby Africans were dispossessed of their means of production so that they could supply labour power as a commodity to the white monopoly capital. Capital accumulation is also about political power, which is also concentrated in the state. Capital also uses the state as one of the mechanisms to reproduce labour and the reproduction of the means of production as capital.  In other words, capitalism and its social agents (capitalists) is indirectly or directly supported by managers in the workplace and the state.
The key issue raised by the SACP’s Discussion Document is how the post-1994 capitalist state has facilitated the capitalist accumulation PATH, which has enabled the bourgeoisie to extract more surplus value and reproduced key colonial features of the South African economy.  For instance the means of production are still owned by the white capitalist class and the post-1994 SA industrial structure is predominantly based on raw materials akin to colonial and neo-colonial societies.  The point that the document is making is simply this: the petty-bourgeois elements that are dominant in the state are not only using it to nurture a black capitalist class, but also laid a conducive environment for realization of profit for the white monopoly capital at the expense of the poor, notwithstanding some of the socio-economic reforms . It has done this through the GEAR policy.  The reality of poverty in poor communities speaks to this valid claim. Therefore even in terms of the NDR standards, GEAR is a right-wing deviation.
The unidentified author suggests that, to ‘alter the path of capital accumulation’ is tantamount to the end of capital accumulation.  I thought the author would understand that altering the ‘path’ of capital accumulation and altering the capital accumulation are not the same things. The former is about the form of capital accumulation and the latter is about the end of capital accumulation, thus ushering in socialist accumulation. The RDP was about altering the path of capital accumulation which was worsening the conditions of the working class. It was not about the end of capital accumulation, but was about a particular ‘path’ of capital accumulation which is different from the neo-liberal path of capital accumulation as codified in the GEAR. It is this shift from the RDP to GEAR, actually a siginicant departure from the Freedom Charter, that has raised concerns from the SACP and COSATU, including from inside the ranks of the ANC, as demonstrated by the 2005 ANC NGC resolutions.
The key component of the current path of capital accumulation is predominantly based on raw materials like any other colonial economy, thus perpetuating the legacy of Colonialism of a Special Type. It is in this context that a call has been made for an industrial strategy to break the current industrial structure to diversify the South African industrial structure. Despite the introduction of the MIDP in the auto-sector, the South African capital accumulation path is largely based on raw minerals, which has been called Minerals-Energy Complex. This path is not sustainable because it depends on the supply of f raw materials to imperialists. Colonial and post-colonial economies which relied on exported primary commodities retained dependent as opposed to independent industrialization driven by a ‘developmental state’. The Zambian economy which has been based on raw materials, particularly copper, is a recent example. Industrial strategy would provide a process in which the share of industry in general and of manufacturing in particular, is increased in the economic activity. This would increase the supply of industrial inputs for consumer goods and inputs that produce the means of production. This would break the reliance on export of raw materials and import of consumer goods. Of course this is still within a capital accumulation, which must be eventually changed into a socialist accumulation. But it is better than a neo-liberal capital accumulation path. 
The ghost author commits a conceptual error by confusing reformism and reforms. Reforms are not inherently reactionary if they take the struggle of the emancipation of the working class forward. But reformism sees the reforms as an end in themselves. The RDP was a socio-economic programme that had reforms that were in favour of the working class. This is the basis for the difference between the dominant petty-bourgeoisie within the ANC and the working class organisations – SACP and COSATU.  Fortunately these neo-liberal reforms which were aimed at consolidating the current accumulation path were rejected by the ANC general membership in the 2005 National General Council (NGC).
In the 30 June ANC Today Online edition, the author continues to justify the neo-liberal policy mantra which was rejected by the ANC NGC.  Without using the same Marxian categories to explain why inflation arises under capitalism, the author argues that the GEAR policy had to be adopted in order to combat inflation (i.e. general increase of commodity prices). This is what the neo-liberal Normative Economic Model adopted by the late Apartheid regime was trying to do. Like GEAR,   it had a neo-liberal economic policy package to deal with inflation in order to restore profitability which has been declining as the SACP Document argues. The author assumes that there is only one way of dealing with inflation under capitalism. For instance, inflation can be controlled through price controls.  The dominant petty-bourgeoisie has adopted a neo-liberal option namely:  (a) increase interest rates which discourage productive capital from productive investment (‘real economy’) and also led to the increase in the nominal state debt (b) labour market flexibility which has enabled capital to extract more surplus value through absolute surplus value facilitated by causalisation of the labour (c) trade liberalization (d) reduction of taxation on capital to allow more profit for the bourgeoisie. Certain ambiguities or lack of details in the RDP did not justify a neo-liberal turn or deviation from the NDR.  If the author had used Marx’s Capital to analyse the economic policy – GEAR, they would realize that it has increased the rate of surplus value at the expense of the working class - the leading motive force of the NDR.
What did the Freedom Charter say about the means of production owned by white monopoly capitalists?  The Freedom Charter, which is a programme of the NDR, said we shall transfer the means of production to the people as a whole, thus laying a firm basis for socialism. Unfortunately, the means of production are still in the hands of the strategic class enemy of the NDR – white monopoly capital which is giving some of its crumbs to the petty black bourgeoisie, including co-opting some of the leading cadres of the congress movement in the name of the BEE. 
The class struggle continues against petty-bourgeois deviation… and for a accumulation path with and for workers and the poor.