Flag and Symbol
Media & Artwork
Conferences, Congresses and Anniversaries
Leadership Structures
African Communist PDF Archive
African Communist Digital Archive
Bua Komanisi
Eastern Cape Bulletin
Umsebenzi Online
Umsebenzi Online Articles
Voice of the Proletariat - Northern Cape Publication
Feedback Form
Google Groups

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

Contact us
Tel:  +27 11 3393621
Fax: +27 11 3394244
+27 11 3396880


PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

The latest Umsebenzi Click here to view the Latest Umsebenzi. [PDF]

The latest Umsebenzi Online

Why the assassin must not be granted parole
Read more

The latest African Communist Click here to view the Latest African Communist. [PDF]

Issue 146 - First Quarter 1997


Editorial Notes

SACP Discussion Document

Cosatu Discussion Document

ANC Discussion Document

SACP Programme


Time to shift the terrain of debate

Over the past months there has been much debate around government's macro-economic strategy, Growth, Equity and Redistribution (GEAR). Big business circles, and their apologists in the media, have welcomed GEAR with enthusiasm, portraying it as a "complete re-orientation in ANC policy perspectives". These forces have also been trying to goad the SACP and COSATU, and to provoke splits within the alliance.

As progressive forces in this country we have to find our feet in this debate. On the one hand we must not play into the hands of our opponents. On the other hand we cannot allow their schemes to block an effective debate on GEAR within our ranks. Above all, we have to get beyond rhetoric and confront the real problems of our country with a progressive agenda.

Prior to the April 1994 elections, we did not have the facts at hand to appreciate the seriousness of government indebtedness. In the last decade of its existence, the apartheid regime cynically used the budget in an attempt to buy its way out of crisis. We are now having to deal with the consequences of this.

Almost one quarter of our current budget disappears straight out of public hands and goes to the private financial institutions as interest payment on the government debt. You don't have to be Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher to realise that this is an untenable situation.

Through 1996, the financial markets were fairly volatile, and our foreign currency reserves were, at points, very low. The value of the rand fell dramatically in the first months of last year. Big business blamed all of these problems on "government's failure to produce a macro-economic plan". There was continuous pressure.

As has happened in many other countries, the bourgeoisie exploited these vulnerabilities to put pressure on a progressive government. The objective is to undermine government policies, and in particular they hope to sink the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

It was against this background that GEAR was developed and in July 1996 unveiled. Leading comrades in government have defended GEAR as the only feasible macro-economic framework in our situation, and they have argued that without GEAR, the RDP will not be implemented.

COSATU and some leading comrades in the SACP have been less sure. There have been some robust criticisms of the strategy. These attacks have focused, amongst other things, on the process of drawing up the plan; on the failure to explore a wider range of alternatives; and on the budget deficit reduction process which is seen as punitive and likely to kill growth rather than nurture it.

As far as the SACP is concerned, the macro-economic debate is, and must remain, wide open. GEAR's appropriateness must be constantly assessed, and where errors have been made, rapid adjustments must take place. We must not allow the constant chorus from the capitalists "to stick firm", for "government to show who is the boss" to distract us from our responsibilities to the country.

But, above all, we must not allow the debate to be stuck at the macro-economic level. We say this for several reasons:

In the first place, if the cutting edge of the debate is macro-economic strategy, it is clear that popular forces will tend to remain at a permanent disadvantage. Should our budget deficit reduction target for the year be a more generous 5.4%, let us say, rather than 5,1%? That is an important question. But it is a debate that is very abstract and disempowering for our mass constituency. If we constantly steer the debate to this level exclusively, we will repeat the original error of GEAR - the fact that, regardless of content, it was a technocratic exercise that was insufficiently guided at the political level.

In the second place, and more importantly, the actual outcome of economic transformation is not going to be won or lost in macro-economic debate. Such debate is crucial. But it is the balance of class forces that is going to be the key factor. If we allow the bourgeoisie to pick the terrain, then we will be caught up in their agenda.

So how, then, should we broaden the debate around GEAR?

We need to realise that the problems surrounding GEAR within our movement are not unique to the macro-economic strategy. GEAR is just one symptom of a broader problem. Over the past three years, policy formation and implementation became extremely technicist in character. This was, perhaps, a predictable development, following the redeployment of tens of thousands of cadres into government. It was a redeployment that saw the severe depletion of our key mass organisations, not least the ANC itself. The transformation of the people-driven philosophy of the RDP into a "Masakhane" campaign that, until recently, meant little more than a message that government would deliver, while people (especially poor black communities) would pay, was a clear consequence of this. We were trying to deal with everything bureaucratically, while we left our mass base demobilised and confused.

The debate around GEAR must be broadened into the wider debate about rebuilding our formations around a clear, mobilising programme of action. Many of the documents in this issue of the African Communist reflect this concern.

More specifically, we need also to unpack GEAR. There is a tendency to treat it as a monolithic block of granite and to pronounce that it is either "good" (or at least "necessary") or alternatively a "complete disaster".

We need to break matters down into more manageable points of focus. In doing this we will also demystify GEAR. We will realise, for instance, that although we have been told more than once that GEAR is "non-negotiable", key pillars of the programme are in fact very much under negotiation - the best example being the ongoing government-trade union negotiations on the restructuring of state assets.

When it comes to the budget, the most important debate is probably less about percentages and much more about priorities and the effective, transformational use of the budget. We could let the budget deficit grow and still not implement real transformation.

Another key pillar of GEAR is the proposal of a social accord. (This is also hardly an area that could be non-negotiable - the very idea of an accord implies negotiations.) COSATU has already, and correctly, indicated that it is not interested in some big block-buster accord, like a national, across the board wage restraint agreement in exchange for some vague promises about job creation. Rather, COSATU says that it is prepared to explore the possibility of numerous sectoral and other specific accords.

Rather than waiting passively for issues to be placed on the table, the left needs to advance imaginative and progressive accord proposals. The crisis in the funding of tertiary education might be partly resolved, for instance, through the Youth Commission proposal of community service for young people. Universities might be partly subsidised from the budget for the community service that students render by way of literacy training, for instance. There could be a government-student-tertiary institutions accord to this effect.

Likewise, we need to propose social accords in which richer suburbs and industry agree to cross-subsidise water and electricity for poorer areas.

These are just some examples of how the left needs to engage with elements of GEAR in ways which enable us to actively mobilise our core constituency. The debate around macro-economic policy must continue, but we must ensure that it is pursued in ways that strengthen our own forces. To be either uncritical or narrowly rejectionist will not get us anywhere.

Let us not lose sight of our strategic priorities

SACP Central Committee Discussion Document

The following document was adopted in October last year by the SACP Central Committee as a discussion document. It should be read in conjunction with similar documents, reproduced in this issue of The African Communist from our alliance partners.

1. Introduction

It is now nearly two-and-a-half years since April 1994 and what our 9th Party Congress described as the "democratic breakthrough". This breakthrough has opened up a bridgehead for the advancing, deepening and defence of the national democratic project.

But the national democratic project continues, of course, to be threatened, on the one hand, by the past:

  • by the legacy of an economy that is in a far-reaching structural crisis, itself the direct outcome of colonialism of a special type (CST) and its contradictory combination of development and systematic under-development;
  • by the burden of government debt, and by a large bureaucracy, significant sections of which are incompetent and hostile to the new challenges.

The national democratic project is encumbered by the very things it seeks to resolve - mass unemployment, deep poverty, homelessness, low levels of education, a transport crisis, rural backwardness, the patriarchal oppression and marginalisation of one half of the population - in short, by the results of decades of systematic racist, capitalist and patriarchal underdevelopment. The national democratic project is also threatened by southern African and international realities.

2. National Democratic transformation - but under which class hegemony?

In the face of these challenges is a fairly disparate range of forces, classes and strata, at the heart of which is the ANC. These are the forces bent on carrying forward a national democratic project, and opposed (in varying degrees) to the legacy of backwardness, underdevelopment and oppression we are inheriting.

But these national democratic forces represent complex, quite dynamic, shifting realities, which are liable to coalesce around two distinct versions of the national democratic project:

2.1. National Democratic transformation as "modernising" and "normalising"

On the one hand, there are those forces that are liable to conceive of ND transformation as a project:

  • to "modernise" the South African economy, to make it "more competitive" on the "global stage";
  • to "normalise" South Africa's political dispensation and, generally,
  • to stabilise and surpass the present crisis within a new capitalist order in our country.

Around this version of ND transformation is a potential, new ruling bloc in formation, dominated by the bourgeoisie - including, in practice, both major fractions of the old (white) bourgeoisie and new, emergent capitalist fractions. The latter fractions, while they may take the lead in this process, will conceal their dependency on the former ("modernising" white fraction of the bourgeoisie) with a great deal of rhetoric about "the need for a patriotic bourgeoisie", and questions like "how else will the ANC raise money for the 1999 elections?" (without asking too many other questions about what kind of ANC they have in mind).

But this potential, and already partially emergent ruling bloc, will not (and could not) go it alone. It will certainly seek to present its interests as those of a broader range of middle strata, especially the rapidly forming new black middle strata - professionals, private and parastatal managers, middle and senior civil servants - "modernising", "normalising", "globalising", "black economic empowerment" (all potentially positive projects, but presented one-sidedly here ), and plain self-enrichment will be among the major themes around which this bloc will attempt to consolidate itself. Socialism, more substantial transformation, the Freedom Charter - all of these traditions tend to be viewed patronisingly, as "things of the past", as "hopelessly out of date".

Real issues, like women's oppression, are picked up within this first version of the ND transformation, but they then become confined to largely elite concerns and resolutions - ensuring a quota of women are represented within the emerging public and private sector elite.

This project (it is not necessarily a wholly conscious or elaborate project) will not ignore the organised working class. It will seek to incorporate the more organised, more skilled sections of the working class as a junior partner within its ruling bloc. This objective is clear enough in the SA Foundation's Growth for All (we are not suggesting that the forces represented by the SA Foundation are ND forces, but they hope to influence the ND process and they hope to insert their project into a version of national and democratic restructuring).

Ironically, the very forces that castigate COSATU as an "elite", are the ones that seek to transform strategic sections of this organised working class into an elite. This is the logic of the "first tier" (of the proposed "two tiered labour market"). This is also one implication of the insistence on whole-scale privatisation - the net effect of which would be to render housing, effective transport, health-care, and training accessible, at best, only to a small, relatively advantaged section of the working class. This kind of objective is the strategic purpose that these forces give to the idea of a social accord - the objective, for them, of such an accord is to draw a "first tier" of the working class into their ruling bloc as subordinate partners and beneficiaries of the new South Africa.

The strengths of this "modernising" version of the ND transformation process should not be underrated. They include:

  • the fact that this kind of ideology has a certain spontaneous self-evidence about it, especially for the tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of new professionals, public and private sector junior and middle managers, and newly elected representatives in all tiers of government. These are the individuals who, at a subjective level, are the most obvious beneficiaries of the 1994 breakthrough. There has been a very sudden and dramatic (and long overdue) increase in the possibilities for professional advancement, with accompanying increases in power, privilege and authority. What makes these developments particularly significant is that, by and large, these tens of thousands have constituted the core cadre base for our movement. The structural limitations of their advancement are not yet always apparent at present. It may only be five or even ten years before there is a dramatic decrease in the sudden intake and promotion of tens of thousands of individuals into the modernising, non-racial middle strata. Those who have not yet "made it", can still dream of succeeding. But, without major transformation struggles ahead, the majority, will not "make it". But in these heady days, where the sky seems to be the limit, that is not always so apparent.

(We emphasise immediately that we are not condemning the progressive emergence of new, non-racial, middle strata. Our point here is not to advance some moralising, "the poorer the better", thesis. Our concern is that, unless we self-consciously grapple with new realities, this development will give rise to a self-satisfied, and very limited version of our national democratic project.)

  • this version of ND transformation is also strengthened by the still prevailing (although now less triumphalist) international hegemony of neo-liberalism. It is an hegemony that has been sustained, partly, by the international crisis in progressive projects (the socialist crisis, the severe problems and distortion of NDR projects in the South not least Africa, and even by the relative decline of social democracy).

However, whatever advantages this version of ND transformation might enjoy, it also suffers from major weaknesses:

  • in particular, it is likely to prove unstable and unsustainable. In practice, it amounts to a 30%-70% solution, an attempt to overcome the present post-apartheid crisis by stabilising a new capitalist order around, perhaps, 30% of the population, while the great majority, the majority of the working class, the rural poor, the unemployed, the informal sector remain marginal in a "flexible", "unregulated" and substantially "right-less" second tier. This majority will remain overwhelmingly young, female and black - and its best hope, if this version of ND transformation prevails, will be of some trickle-down from a "modernised" and "normalised" new South Africa.

This path towards ND transformation is both unjust and unworkable, and therein lies its second weakness and danger:

  • its instability might lead to a growing emphasis on law and order, discipline and sacrifice (again, none of these in themselves is wrong - but a one-sided emphasis in which these are qualities expected of the poor, and not the elite, can become a diversion from the real problems and real needs for deepening and speeding transformation). As the structural (and sheer numerical) limitations on upward mobility for the previously oppressed majority become more apparent, as pressures mount for "more delivery", there are dangers that the newly arrived, taking their place alongside of an older white elite, will increasingly identify with top-down managerialism (in the name of professionalism), and the use of authority - seeing in the excluded 70% less the motor force for ongoing transformation, and more a threat to newly acquired privilege and power.

2.2 The ND project as a thorough-going revolutionary transformation under the hegemonic leadership of the workers and the poor

There is, of course, a second and real trajectory for our NDR. It is a trajectory that we need constantly to propagate and to develop - and this will become the theme of some of the later sections of this paper. Broadly, this second potential trajectory is one in which the social weight, interests and concerns of the working class as a whole, and the broader rural and urban poor, are hegemonic.

It needs, however, also to be a hegemony that embraces a broad national democratic bloc - including a large majority of the middle strata and significant sectors of an emergent bourgeoisie - "a patriotic bourgeoisie". Such a progressive hegemonic bloc depends on many factors - ideological, organisational, mobilisation and struggle. It needs to be grounded on a clear understanding that the first version of ND transformation is limited, unstable and unsustainable.

To defend THIS version of the NDR requires more than rhetoric about our past traditions, above all it requires an intelligent engagement with the new realities in which we find ourselves. We will deal with some of these issues in the concluding sections of this paper.

2.3 NDR unity remains a key task

We have distinguished two broad potential trajectories for the ND transformation, corresponding to two potential hegemonic classes - the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In practice, the alignment of different class forces is less clear-cut, the alignment is contested, and often confused. These two potential trajectories are intermingled within a single movement, within a common front of opposition to the past. This intermingling itself underlines that we are not dealing with wholly different social forces, but rather similar social forces that can be harnessed, potentially, behind one or another class project.

For all of these reasons the SACP needs to continue to play an active role in nurturing the unity of our broad ANC-led liberation movement. This role is not in contradiction with the equally important task of continuously propagating and contesting for one rather than another class hegemony over this broad liberation movement. We repeat: CLASS hegemony, which is not the same as this or that organisation's hegemony over the process, nor is working class hegemony the same as a narrow workerism that excludes a wide range of progressive forces.

3. The Present Conjuncture

We have begun with these observations, because we believe that these deeper, underlying class realities must inform our appraisal of present trends and recent achievements.

3.1 Real achievements

Notwithstanding the contradictory pulls within the broad ND front, led by the ANC, it is, in the first place, important to acknowledge real gains. Looking over these past two-and-a-half years, there has been very significant progress in a number of critical areas. Without going into substantial detail we would highlight, notably:

  • the political/constitutional front - we are close to adopting one of the most progressive constitutions in the world; we have successfully piloted our country into representative democracy; and there is the steady, if uneven, consolidation of national, provincial and local tier democratic structures. Most importantly, the overwhelming majority of our people, regardless of their political sentiments, broadly accept the reality and necessity of the new political dispensation;
  • the dramatic curtailment of political violence - We should never lose sight of the fact that, in the 9 years immediately preceding April 1994, over 15,000 people were killed in our country. The importance of the relative political stability we have built in our country, against this immediate back-drop, should not be underestimated.
  • even on the economic front, where there are many serious challenges and uncertainties, it is important not to lose perspective. We need to remember that, as cde Alec Erwin recently put it:

"In 1990 our economy was heading for a major train crash. It was stagnant, shedding employment, insular and characterised by conflict. Debt was rising rapidly, as was public sector unemployment. However, the reform process did not start in April 1994. It began inching forward from 1992, propelled by the (ANC-alliance led) civil society process...And when the ANC became a virtual de facto government in the latter half of 1993 and then the leader of government in 1994, this reform intensified and gathered pace."

Comrade Alec draws two important conclusions from these observations:

  • The first, a point to which we will return later, is that we need to remember that even before coming into government, the ANC-led alliance was able to help to move the economy away from its absolute stagnation, and this, in the new circumstances, underlines that we need always to understand the role and responsibilities of progressive civil society, avoiding the "syndrome of wanting government to put everything right and then endlessly criticising it for failing to do so."
  • The second is that, notwithstanding the present fragility of some features of our economy, there is also a real resilience, and we are NOT where we were 6 years ago.

3.2 But also confusions

However, the past two-and-a-half years have also been characterised by errors, confusions and a tendency, above all, to lose perspective. A lot of energy in the public debate, and in our movement, has been absorbed by marginal realities - Sarafina 2, Bantu Holomisa and other intra-movement leadership problems (Free State, etc.). We are not suggesting that there are not important issues at stake, and that we can simply ignore them. But, partly through mishandling from our side as a movement, and partly as a result of a deliberate campaign from our opponents, we have allowed these kinds of issues to occupy centre stage.


In many cases we have been guilty, as a movement, of excessive and misguided defensivism. There have been situations in which a simple and early admitting of error might have rapidly resolved an issue.

The defensivism of which we are speaking has, however, its roots in something much deeper.

3.3 The exaggeration of our April 1994 victory and of what is possible from our new positions of state power

This is not a new concern from the side of the SACP. Indeed, at our June 18 1994 Central Committee meeting, our first plenary CC meeting after the April elections, we issued a CC discussion document which expressed concern about the dangers (which we believed we detected within our movement) of over-rating the April breakthrough:

"despite the historical significance of the elections, it is entirely wrong to portray them as the culmination of the NDR...The election victory must neither be over- nor under-estimated..."

and we added:

"the balance of forces remains complex, the security forces, the civil service, the control and ownership of the economy, the media, the judiciary - in all of these areas, we are inheriting a white-minority and capitalist legacy. Protracted transformation struggles lie ahead, and clearly such transformation requires effective use of our new positions in government and co-ordination of these new positions with our traditional power-base - our mass and community-based structures."

We believe that the correctness of this perspective has been underlined and indeed magnified by subsequent experience. The ensuing two years have added much more detail to our general reference to "a white-minority and capitalist legacy". The levels of incompetence, corruption, and the fiscal frailty of the administrations we have taken over are huge and much beyond our original expectations.

As senior government comrades have now begun to acknowledge, our tendency to exaggerate the power we acquired in April 1994 has unintentionally

  • put us into a corner. If we are so much in power, where is the delivery? The ANC gets blamed for everything from crime (as if it were a new phenomenon) to unemployment, or homelessness.
  • sent a demobilising message to our broader constituency - "thanks for the struggle, we are now in power, we shall deliver, see you in 1999".

Now, every attempt from our side to explain the constraints and limitations of government is seen as special pleading, as an avoidance of responsibility.

3.4 The agenda of anti-transformation forces

All of the above has been partly fostered by, and partly and unintentionally it has played into the hands of the agenda of the anti-transformation forces. These forces have been happy for their past responsibilities and their present substantial powers to go largely unnoticed. They are happy for the ANC to have the appearance of all power, and for it to be carrying the can for all problems.

Among the features of this broad strategy are:

  • sowing panic about the depreciation of the Rand, or about crime. In sowing this kind of panic, these forces hope to shift our focus from the transformational, democratic and humanist strategic values of our revolution.
  • exacerbating intra-ANC movement personality squabbles and leadership rivalries.
  • debasing real, and necessary strategic debates within our movement (macro-economic policy, housing delivery) into the above - as if these debates were also just squabbles, and as if the real agenda in these cases was also intra-elite rivalry.

The SACP, along with all our allies, must continue to encourage a broad and constructive debate on both macro-economic policy and housing policy. We must rebut attempts to portray such debate as "rocking the boat", as "irresponsible". But, by the same token, we must ensure that the debate does not become cheap labelling ("neo-liberal sell-outs"!). We must seek to strengthen government's capacity to govern effectively, while at the same time doing justice to the complexity of the challenges facing us.

  • linked to all the above, there is a constant attempt to goad the ANC in government into a bureaucratic, technicist and get-tough mode ("show us who is really boss?", "who is running this economy, Trevor Manuel or Sam Shilowa?", "bring back the death penalty", etc etc).

We cannot fail to notice, also, that the streets are no longer the natural monopoly of progressive popular forces.

A good recent example is the PAGAD phenomenon. Our comrades in the Safety and Security and Justice ministries have generally handled this reality with great intelligence - with a combination of firmness and flexibility. They have recognised in the PAGAD phenomenon a genuine, community anger and frustration, but one that can easily go off the rails. They have sought to engage and rechannel these energies in the direction of our broader and overall transformation struggle.

However, it is significant that the street (the "voice of civil society", of the "communities") has been left largely to the PAGADs, while we engage these forces as government. This is one facet of the broader problem we raised above - our tendency to exaggerate our power in government, and our tendency to underrate the importance of our organisation in the communities.

The SACP, while supporting our comrades in government, must give fresh impetus to the call on communities and our movement structures to engage much more dynamically in Community Policing Forums.

We must repeat our rejection of the retrograde call for a return of capital punishment.

4.Consolidating our understanding of our strategic tasks

If we are to overcome present tendencies to simply chase our own tails, we need not just to remind ourselves of what we set out to do in April 1994, but also we need to continuously deepen and elaborate our understanding of those tasks. If we fail to elaborate a progressive understanding of the NDR then its meaning and trajectory will be captured by the "modernising", capitalist bloc we highlighted above.

The South African transition is throwing up a host of new, innovative strategic realities, possibilities and complex challenges. We want to suggest two key areas that require theoretical elaboration, debate and propagation:

  • the national democratic state as a developmental state; and
  • the need for a broad, popular movement for transformation.

4.1 The national democratic state as a develpomental state

The concept of a "developmental state" has a certain loose currency in activist and academic circles, but requires a great deal more elaboration and understanding.

The following are some general thoughts to get the ball rolling on this topic:

  • The post-1945 period saw, despite the Cold War, a certain global consensus about the state - in both Western Europe, in the newly emerging independent Third World states of Africa and Asia, in Latin America, in Eastern Europe, and even, to some extent in the US there was an acceptance that the state had a major economic role - as owner of key economic commanding heights, as planner, as regulator, and as provider of extensive welfare. There were two major competing "models" within this broader consensus - the Keynesian, welfarist state, and the soviet central planning state. Progressive attempts in the Third World to build National Democratic States usually combined, in varying degrees, these two major models.
  • The post-1973 global capitalist downturn opened up a prolonged (and still persisting) crisis for the western (and its third world variants - eg. India) welfare state. The reasons for the crisis of this model are complex, and include:
    • globalisation and the increasing propensity of national capital to break the national social accord, a propensity which was
    • provoked partly by the capitalist downturn and lower rates of profit,
    • ageing populations because of the very success of welfarism, placing a growing burden on the social security network. etc.

(We need, of course, to understand all of this much more clearly, and also ask whether the crisis of welfarism, and its core assumptions - eg. domestic demand-led growth - are not exaggerated by reactionary forces. In other words, not all of this experience is necessarily simply a "failure to be written off".)

The crisis of welfarism was marked by

    • the steady centre-wards drift of social democratic parties - in Western Europe (including Scandinavia), Australasia, Canada, India, and by the "new" generation of governing post-fascist social democratic forces in Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Latin America) which were much more right-centre from the start than the first wave of SD electoral ruling parties in Europe.

But, above all, by

    • the growing hegemony of neo-liberalism (see below) with its own (largely hostile) assumptions about the state. This growing hegemony was marked, amongst other things, by the electoral victory of neo-liberal parties (Thatcherism, Reaganism) in all of the leading capitalist countries.
  • Roughly parallel in time with the deepening crisis of welfarism, there was also the growing stagnation, crisis and then virtual collapse of the soviet-style, bureaucratic command state economies. We have, since 1989, within the SACP had an ongoing debate on this specific crisis, and we have tried to draw lessons from it. We won't repeat any of the major points made here (see, amongst other things, our Path to Power (1991) and Strategic Perspectives (1995) documents.
  • The Neo-Liberal Consensus - the practical crisis of the welfarist and soviet style post-1945 state, and the frailty of most progressive ND states in the South, created the space for the rapid emergence of a new hegemonic global consensus - neo-liberalism. This position has argued for a minimalist state, for the state to remove itself largely from the economy - with its economic role being confined to "creating a favourable climate for private investment".

A cornerstone economic assumption of the neo-liberal consensus is that "the state is simply a consumer of wealth, it creates no new wealth". From this assumption, comes the advocacy, in the name of economic growth, of the radical curbing of the state's role in the economy (privatisation, liberalisation, deregulation), and the sharp cutting back of state expenditure (stringent budget deficit reduction, etc.).

Neo-liberalism was able to intelligently exploit one of the great shortcomings of the welfarist and administrative command states - namely, the broader population tended to have a passive presence within these systems (as the recipients of top-down, mass-produced, welfare patronage). In the name of "individual free choice", neo-liberalism mobilised popular support for the dismantling of, for instance, national health systems, or national housing programmes. Neo-liberalism successfully mobilised citizens narrowly as "consumers", and presented the marketisation of the public sector (education, social security, water and electricity) as an "extension of freedom", "broadening the range of choice", etc.

In the Third World, neo-liberalism, partly through the IMF and World Bank, has been able to lead a sustained offensive against the sovereignty of states (including national democratic states). By manipulating and "managing" the debt crisis of much of the Third World, neo-liberal forces have been able to insist upon structural adjustment programmes that greatly reduce the powers and capacities of Third World states. The outcome, in the words of an Indian academic, is that:

    "the vocation of the nation-state undergoes a fundamental mutation: the state no longer represents the interests of the nation in the world of international competition; it comes to represent, rather, the interests of `globalisation' to the nation."

To summarise:

the more or less simultaneous crisis of the welfarist, soviet-style administrative command and progressive Third World state systems has been used as a point of entry for neo-liberalism. For the better part of a decade and a half, the assessment, critique and proposal of alternatives has been monopolised by the right, and a formidable international ideological hegemony has been forged.

All of this background is necessary because elaborating (in theory and practice) the concept of a "developmental state" needs to be, quite self-consciously, a left critique of the neo-liberal version of the state, but a critique that is not a simple (and probably impossible) retreat into welfarism or an administrative command state.

So what is the National Democratic State as a Developmental State?

Some provisional points of reference:

  • neither minimalist nor maximalist - the idea of the developmental state tries to break away from a simplistic debate between the minimalist and the maximalist state. The state has a critical co-ordinating, catalysing, strategic role in all aspects of society, including, of course, the economy. The DS carries out this role, not so much through a monopoly of ownership (of the commanding heights), or a monopoly of resources, or through detailed central planning. Nor, however, does it renounce public ownership or planning or welfare provision - but all of these are seen in terms of their strategic capacity to unlock and lead other forces/resources/energies into a broader developmental effort.
  • a shift from governMENT to goverNANCE - this is not just a new semantic fad. In speaking of a developmental state, we are shifting away

      from an exaggerated state-centredness to stressing partnerships,
      from structure to relationships, and
      from blue-print planning to process.

  • in the context of our particular transition, this approach to the state also underlines why we need to be thinking about the transformation/restructuring of the state and state assets, and not just about the "transfer of power" - the mere inheriting/capture of existing institutions, structures and plans.
  • the need for flattening the vertical hierarchies in government departments is partly about overcoming the huge apartheid era inequalities, but it is also about a fundamental reorientation in strategic functioning. The objective of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, for instance, should not be "to run all culture" in SA. Rather, it needs to play a catalysing, empowering and transformational role on the terrain of culture. This requires, not a massive, vertically steep bureaucracy carrying out rote activities, but an agile, highly motivated, and strategically purposeful cadreship. Clearly, the same point will not necessarily apply in equal measure to all departments, especially those charged with massive service delivery (pensions, policing) - but we need, as much as possible, to be always thinking dynamically and not bureaucratically, or monopolistically.
  • but what class content does the developmental state have?? It is important to raise this question clearly. In some of the academic literature, states associated with the Asian Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs), particularly in the critical "take-off" period, are referred to as "developmental states". Some of the features of a DS noted above are indeed associated with the NIC states. There are important lessons to be learnt from these cases, and the examples are very useful for the purposes of rebutting the neo-liberal consensus. However, the NIC states are modernising, without necessarily being progressive, while developing partnerships, these have been predominantly towards an emergent national bourgeoisie. They have been associated with authoritarianism, anti-worker and student measures, and the massive destruction of the environment.

So, we are, in the SAn case, not talking about just any DS, but about a progressive National Democratic state that is aligned to a progressive/worker dominated movement (which does not mean the SAn DS can or should forego partnerships and interaction with capital). Within this progressive version of the DS other factors also become important, including the critical role of elected representative structures (legislatures), and of different tiers of government.

The last several paragraphs obviously connect in a very direct way to the second theme that we propose requires greater elaboration:

4.2 Building a popular movement for trnasformation

While, obviously, building on a whole range of earlier debates and discussions, the SACP's Gauteng 1996 Congress and cde Jabu's secretary's report gave new impetus and coined the term "a popular movement for transformation". There are also interesting practical initiatives occurring, amongst other things at the initiative of some SACP MECs in Gauteng (and other provinces). We need to theorise more adequately what is actually being done, and take forward strategically the idea of a PMT.

Strategic trade unionism. Within COSATU our comrades are also grappling with the challenge of placing the union movement on to a more strategic and transformational footing. There have been some real successes, and in many cases COSATU has succeeded in playing a broad strategising role more effectively than the SACP. But there are, of course, also narrow workerist and defensive tendencies within the trade union movement as well. We need to contribute, strategically, and otherwise, to helping COSATU define its role at the heart of a PMT.

There are a whole range of other related topics:

  • rebuilding organisation. The organisational well-being of our various, extra-governmental/parliamentary formations, the co-ordination and tensions amongst us, the weaknesses of the alliance secretariat, the relationship between the constitutional structures of the ANC (and its broader alliance) and government and legislatures, the whole "political centre" debate.
  • the emergence of relatively new MDM formations (eg. a host of co-operatives, the Homeless Peoples movement), the potential of reforging links with popular formations that we have more or less neglected/lost sight of over the last six years (eg. the progressive religious sector); and the ongoing relevance of existing structures.
  • the Masakhane campaign - how do we/should we help to re-define it more towards the PMT idea??;
  • the RDP Council structure - is it working - can it be a helpful component for a PMT??
  • the role of government in facilitating, resourcing a PMT.
  • international experience of PMTs and the possibilities of broad anti-neoliberal international exchanges.

Finally, we need to return to the important question:

5. What kind of SACP are we trying to build at present?

This is a question we have kept coming back to over the last 7 years. There is, once more, a strong sense in the party that we should revisit the question.

Back in 1991 we "resolved" a debate on the question by describing the party we were trying to build as a "mass vanguard" party, which, on the face of it, is an internal contradiction. But the contradiction reflected a discomfort with a too easy opposition between "mass" and "vanguard".

Clearly, we are not trying to be a mass party in opposition to the ANC. Clearly, we are trying to define ourselves in the context of an ANC-led alliance. There is debate in our party about the wisdom of this, but, we believe, there is a broad majority in favour of this general perspective.

If we are not contesting elections in our own right, if we are not trying to rival the ANC in size, then shouldn't we be a "vanguard" party? Is this not our particular vocation in the context of an ANC-led alliance, and of the broad PMT that we spoke of above?


The "vanguard" option can easily be a nostalgic and retrograde step in which we fail to take into account all of the challenges noted under Theme 1 and Theme 2 above.

The stagnation of the soviet administrative command system was not unrelated to the stagnation in so-called vanguard parties - prime among them the CPSU itself.

One danger in this old-style vanguard model is that the party becomes an elite, owing its capacity to impact on events on its bureaucratically enforced, dogmatic discipline. The party becomes a career opportunity, and the careful cultivation of one's fortunes within it a guarantee to upward mobility, provided one doesn't irritate any senior structures.

As the SACP, we had, obviously, to adapt many features of the vanguard party because of our clandestine nature (prolonged probation, tight discipline, small numbers, top-down instructions) and it enabled us, indeed, to be a small but highly effective party. Precisely because we were a persecuted party, rather than a party of power, these vanguard features were largely benign (indeed essential). Their more stagnant features, their potential to become, primarily, factors for the reinforcement of an elite and for the bureaucratic abuse of vast powers were less evident in our case. (We need, some time to do a more in-depth analysis of the impact of this style of work on our politics and culture - one suspects that vanguardism meant different things within different locations of the party - exile, the underground, prison, MK, etc.). Overwhelmingly, we believe, we have nothing major to apologise about for the period of 1953-1990. But we cannot just return to that era.

If we are to reassert our "vanguard" character (is the word not itself a bit elitist?) then it should be associated with the following features:

  • a party that endeavour to play a leading strategic role by representing the immediate but also long-term interests of the working class and poor within the context of a broader ANC-led alliance, a national democratic developmental state and a popular movement for transformation. This is, incidentally, not such a "new" idea. See, for instance, Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto (1848):

    "In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

    "The Communists are distinguished from other working class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole."

  • The vanguard party is not a cabal, but rather a collective that encadres and empowers thousands of activists for tasks in a great variety of structures - the developmental state, legislatures, the trade union movement, the MDM, the ANC, NGOs - as well as within the SACP itself.
  • The party is not despatching comrades into, for instance, parliament with a set of instructions which get renewed by a "centre" from time to time. Rather, the party hopes to develop (and learn from) communists active in a range of structures. The party hopes to develop broad strategic perspectives, a communist culture and morality that empowers communists whether they are MECs, soldiers, administrators, church activists, managers of parastatals, shopstewards, co-op members, SRC members, etc, etc. Communists in a variety of structures will, however, need to find their own feet. To empower (and constantly replenish) our comrades in this regard, the SACP needs to greatly develop its ideological work, it needs to cultivate and empower ideological skills, strategic capacity. This can only be done by developing a party of comradely debate, discussion, learning, and teaching.
  • we need also to pay much greater attention to targeted recruitment. How do we strengthen our party structures and our capacity as a party by drawing into our ranks the most serious, the most dedicated, the most consistent cadres around us?
  • clearly, we should not reduce the party simply to a school, or a debating society for its own members. We need, also, to be a party of activism and of activists. Marxism is not just a "methodology", it is also a collective practice. It is true that the practice of our membership will not necessarily be only, or in many cases not evenly mainly, within our party. But the party needs to be an organisation capable of leading action, and a place in which a class conscious reflection on our own (and our broader movement's) practice is constantly carried forward.
  • to do all of the above we need to retain our own independent political, administrative, financial resources and publicity capacity - at all levels. We need to have an independent organisational presence in campaigns, ANC election efforts, and we need to maintain an independent public profile. We need to sustain and develop our capacity to act as a party in relation to other forces, including other parties on the international front.

While all of the above is not a detailed, nor concrete programme of action, we trust that it is within this material context, and within this strategic orientation, that we need to develop our specific programmes of action.

A Programme for the Alliance

A Cosatu Discussion Document

Background to the Alliance

From Cosatu's inception in 1985, the federation developed a close association with the Congress movement. Conditions in the country dictated the need to go beyond bread and butter issues to embrace national and class struggle. This perspective was formally endorsed with Cosatu's adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1987. The 1987 Congress agreed Cosatu should build alliances with mass-based organisations with a track record of struggle and whose principles did not conflict with those of Cosatu.

After the unbanning of the liberation movement, Cosatu's 1991 Congress resolved that the Federation should join the ANC and SACP in alliance in place of Sactu, thus becoming part of the Tripartite Alliance as we know it today. It was understood that this Alliance:

  • Would be the motive force for national liberation, democratisation and transformation at the political and socio-economic level.
  • Consists of independent organisations with independent structures for mandating and decision making. These independent organisations agreed nonetheless to co-operate, consult and take joint decisions on collective action for the emancipation of our people.
  • Would need to work on the basis of proper mandate and consensus.
  • Would be based on a programme which would be evaluated from time to time; and
  • May need to be redefined, taking into account the prevailing objective conditions.

We agreed to build the ANC and SACP and to encourage workers to join.

In the pre-election period, the Alliance parties consulted one another on major issues. A number of summits were held to look at positions on negotiations, mobilisation in support thereof, joint struggle on VAT, and the elections. Finally, we developed the RDP, not only as an election platform, but as a programme designed to achieve the objective of transforming our society to meet the social and economic needs of our people.

After the 1994 Elections

Since the elections, the Alliance has never sat down to systematically look at the challenges of the transition and formulate a strategy, and the role of our various formations in that strategy. Nor was this done for those in parliament, government, various formations outside of government and the state sector. No programme was formulated for engagement of the masses. To date the masses largely remain spectators in the theatre of the struggle for transformation. Notable exceptions were the negotiations on the LRA and the Constitution, where the alliance spoke with one voice.

Current Situation


We have a new political situation, with a legitimate government and parliament. However, we have not been able to use organisational and political space to alter the power balance at a socio-economic level. Good legislation has emerged from parliament, with Cosatu's participation. However, there was no prior strategic planning or systematic Alliance approach to policy development. We have depended on the views of individuals in government, rather than the position of the organisation as a whole.


This area has been the most difficult one for the Alliance. There is no single view of how to implement the RDP. Government positions on privatisation and GEAR have been presented to the Alliance as a fait accompli. This was a clear case of policy driven by panic. No one from the movement, except some in government, was involved in its formulation.

Local and international business and the media have pressurised government to adopt economic policies in direct contradiction to those they were mandated to implement. The movement seems to be paralysed by the threat of globalisation and the business investment strike. The defeatist view that the balance of forces is not in our favour and that we have to give in to "the market" appears to have taken hold. This ignores the significance of our access to state power and the potential of organisation, using the new political space, to tilt the balance of forces.

The economy in the new South Africa is largely what is was in 1993, except for some growth (jobless) and a few black faces and companies. Otherwise it is business as usual.


There is general demobilisation of our people. Most activists are not sure of what the strategic objectives are. There is little participation and involvement in decision and policy making. ANC structures have no visible mass mobilisation programme.

The Alliance itself has no programme except the often cited RDP which means many things to different people. Our structures are either weak or not functioning.

Limits and Possibilities of Democratic Transformation

Marx: 'We change the world, but not under conditions of our own choosing." This statement is true of our situation. We are attempting to transform our country yet we face various constraints which we did not choose. They have been thrust upon us by history.

These include:

  • The legacy of apartheid: including mismanagement of our economy, the debt burden, destruction of our human resources, a deformed public sector, vast unemployment and poverty, concentration of ownership in the hands of the conglomerates, marginalisation of the majority from economic activity, massive income and social inequalities.
  • The new world situation: There is no serious alternative to the power wielded hy the G7 countries and their international financial and trade institutions. The world economy has been organised into powerful trading blocs.

While we inherited enormous problems, the elements are present for us to perform our own 'social miracle' comparable to post-war Europe, the Asian Tigers, and aspects of the Socialist advances of the 20th century.

As with all other societies facing reconstruction challenges, the critical factor will be our ability to mobilise the masses in support of the programme - to unleash huge national energies to achieve what would normally not be possible. The objective basis has been laid, for this scenario to unfold. Our rich history of struggle has resulted in one of the most politicised and conscious mass movements, rooted in a strongly organised working class.

The organisation of the main mass formations under the leadership of the Alliance has catapulted a progressive people's government into power on the basis of an overwhelming popular mandate.

The major social forces have subscribed to a programme of transformation, which was the product of extensive discussion and mobilisation. Our society has a strong tradition of an active progressive civil society and social institutions. Compared to other developing societies, the country's industrial base and the advanced organisation of workers into a progressive trade union movement, give the progressive forces considerable strategic leverage. SA has more potential international allies and goodwill than probably any other comparable struggle.

These positive factors are potentialities, which have to be harnessed to be fully realised. Given our potential strengths, is it possible to achieve fundamental transformation under the constraints inherited from apartheid and the new world order?

Two dangers arise. The first is fatalism - passively accepting that these forces ranged against us are too powerful to counter and we must simply accept our fate. The second is triumphalism - pretending that our electoral triumph has wiped out these constraints and that we can impose our agenda of change, without factoring objective realities into our transformation equation.

The balance of forces

"The main motiveforces of the democratic transformation are primarily represented by African workers and the African rural poor. These forces are also represented by black workers in general and the black middle strata. These are the forces which possess the best political and ideological potential to lead and defend the process of transformation... While continuing to strive to represent the black people as a whole, the movement must however ensure that, at all times, and in the first instance, it represents the interests of the workers, rural masses and the middle strata, those who constitute the majority of the people of this country." (Strategy and Tactics, ANC conference, December 1994)

After more than two years of democratic government, the power of the apartheid-era ruling class remains largely entrenched in critical areas: the security forces, the media, the bureaucracy, and above all in the commanding heights of the economy. While the leading partner of the Alliance, the ANC, is in offlce, there are real questions as to how far the democratic forces have taken power. This has been raised on more than one occasion by both Comrades Thabo and Madiba.

This is not to discount the fact that significant advances have been made. However, the programme of the democratic movement, the RDP, has been systematically undermined by a range of forces attempting to halt transformation.

The power of the masses, concentrated in the Alliance, is the main driving force to counter those forces attempting to divert the state off the path of fundamental transformation.

However, instead of mass mobilisation being seen as a vital force for driving transformation, we have reduced mass involvement to appeals for payment of rents and services.

The lack of leadership from the democratic movement and the lack of a people-driven transformation has lead to demobilisation and demoralisation, particularly of activists. This in turn undermines the cohesion and power of our organisations and their ability to intervene decisively in the transformation equation.

Remove the masses, the progressive forces for change from your calculation, and the power of the reactionary forces becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is time for the movement to problematise the transformation process and to mobilise our forces behind the new challenges.

How do we characterise this phase of our struggle?

We face a situation which is similar to "dual power". The new democratic government, while fully legitimate, popular, and apparently in full control, neither has its hands decisively on all the tillers of state power (the security forces, bureaucracy, parastatals, reserve bank, judiciary etc.) nor has it been able to strategically direct the economy of the country based on our own agenda. The call for blind adherence to privatisation, a reduced budget deficit for its own sake and the immediate removal of exchange controls are part of an attempt to weaken and ultimately remove the state's role in the economy.

This sense of 'dual power' helps to convey the strategic moment in which we find ourselves: the existence of a popular bloc, with its representatives in government, parliament and other institutions, pitted against a minority bloc, attempting to use its access to economic and other power to abort the NDR. The debate is not about whether we are in the phase of completing the struggle for socialism or national democracy. The question is: having successfully held democratic elections, are we able to seriously enter into the task of beginning to decisively transform our country in a manner which will ensure the success of the NDR?

This moment of transition - crudely put, either moving forward to a fundamental transformation, or backwards to the consolidation of minority privilege, albeit with new features - is a historical moment, which can't last indefinitely. Either of the two forces or blocs outlined above, will seize the initiative to lead and direct society. This poses a challenge to the Alliance, government, members of parliament, and progressive civil society to take our fate into our own hands.

This implies two things: firstly, the need for a popular programme, which is implementable, broadly supported, and able to achieve the social hegemony required to break this deadlock and continuously shift the power balance qualitatively in our favour. Secondly, the political will, and organisational ability to drive this programme.

Can we present a hegemonic alternative to lead society?

The great Italian revolutionary Gramsci used the concept of 'hegemony' to describe the proce.ss whereby a particular class in society successfully puts forward its programme for adoption by society as a whole. The RDP was an extremely: powerful intervention by the democratic forces in our country to assert their hegemony.

However, there is a concerted attempt to impose capital's agenda on society as the only feasible alternative to social and economic transfor-mation. Even those who don't like it argue that we have to accept the limitations which the international environment imposes on us. A slogan coined by a multinational company in South Africa to capture this sense of 'the end of history' is the 'TINA' scenario, which stands for "There Is No Alternative"! (We need to counterpose this with a 'THEBA' scenario - There Has to Be an Alternative!)

It is critical that we as a movement have a rigorous and coherent platform which shows that the prescriptions of capital's agenda are disastrous, that we have a viable alternative, that we won't be blackmailed into abandoning our programme and that we are capable of mobilising our people behind it.

There is nothing inherently wrong in the RDP which suggests that it was an inappropriate or unrealistic programme. It is therefore not a question of reinventing the RDP, but demonstrating that we have a concrete, achievable programme to implement it and a programme to involve the masses in driving this process. If the alliance is to drive this process, both democratic government and progressive civil society must be fully involved.

Regalvanising the MDM

A broad front of MDM forces for transformation, transforming our mass organisations into a different type of vehicle than that used to destroy apartheid, is a basic necessity.

The Alliance needs to have strategic open and frank discussion with Sanco on our vision of a civic movement and its role in a democracy

Continued fragmentation of MDM forces will have serious consequences. Governments programmes for transformation in health, land, education, local government, housing and other critical areas will depend critically on the active involvement and mobilisation of these constituencies. We have failed as an Alliance to consolidate MDM organisations as a meaningful united force in society since the elections. This must be rectified through the development of an effective programme to bring these organisations on board.

Trade Unions and the Alliance

" We have won the elections as a result of the sweat and blood of the tripartite alliance. That alliance must go on. But that does not mean that Cosatu and the SACP are subservient to the ANC. No. That's why you have criticised us in the past... We want that, because when we face any issue we want the advice of strong, independent allies who can say to us 'Now you are right', and who can say to us, 'Now you are wrong'. That is why we have been so strong. We've been working with strong, independent organisations that are self-confident, fearless, and who can express their views, even when those views clash with ours." (President Mandela, The Shopsteward, May 1996)

Some in the trade union movement may write off the entire movement as having abandoned the NDR and conclude that the Alliance is no longer a viable vehicle for transformation. This would be mistaken:

  • by abandoning the most powerful vehicle for transformation to other forces in society;
  • by abandoning the masses, who remain convinced that the Alliance represents their strongest hope of implementing a programme for fundamental change;
  • by suggesting that the trade unions themselves are inherently progressive or socialist, and ignoring the fact that the unions are subject to both progressive and reactionary tendencies.

Workers are themselves grappling with how to relate to the changed situation. They want to engage with the situation. They want to work with the ANC, but are not clear as to what that working relationship should be. How does it relate to their struggles - better conditions of employment, elimination of poverty and unemployment, socialism, etc.

More engagement is needed between Cosatu and the SACP. While Cosatu has a vision that extends beyond the shopfloor, it needs a revolutionary working class party to spearhead a working class programme. This will help to locate the struggle for socialism in the current struggles.

Cosatu faces the danger of becoming reactive and defensive. As our broad social role becomes increasingly difficult to sustain, we face the danger of isolation and a retreat into narrow economism. Any attempt to play the role of a "permanent opposition" would also see the marginalisation of unions and fragmentation of the democratic forces. This starkly poses the need for a new strategy, both for the Alliance and the trade union movement.

Proposal for an Alliance Programme

Need for a new strategy

The RDP should remain the programme of the Alliance. What we need now is a strategy for its implementation. This needs to be based on strategic core areas which can lay the basis, particularly in the socio-economic sphere and in the transformation of state institutions, for a qualitative movement forward in the RDP's implementation. We should seek agreement in the Alliance on concrete measures to take us forward in areas such as social security and the social wage (health, transport, pensions, UIF etc.); job creation (especially public works and investment); intervention in the financial markets; public housing and infrastructure; training; land reform; elements of trade and industrial policy; tax reform and wage policy (especially reducing the wage gap).

We need a sharper focus on strategic areas which both decisively improve people's quality of life and leverage significant power for the popular forces and democratic government, in the economy.

These core measures would obviously need to be located within a macro-economic framework which is viable and sustainable. If the existing macro-economic framework is unable to accommodate the most basic elements of the Alliance agenda, it would need to be reworked to bring it in line with the programme adopted by the Alliance.

Alliance approach to processes of governance

The political structures of the Alliance should take responsibility to drive its own programme. However, the locus of decision-making on key political issues has not been in Alliance structures but in individual Ministries. The Alliance only engages with the product.

This has led to conflicting perspectives emerging between the democratic forces in the Executive (Cabinet) and the Legislature (Parliament) and in Nedlac and other structures on the strategy and content of socio-economic issues. In the absence of a coherent Alliance approach, other forces have sometimes occupied this space. This is a recipe for ongoing conflict and division.

The alternative is for the Alliance to reach an Accord or National Agreement on strategic issues, as well as a programme to implement these at different levels of government. This would clearly bind the Alliance forces to actively pursue this agenda in all areas. The Alliance would openly mobilise people for the implementation and defence of agreed programmes in parliament, Nedlac and other areas of governance. It would ensure a cooperative approach between government and labour in Nedlac, rather than Nedlac being seen as a delaying mechanisrr or an institution which prevents government from governing.

This ambitious approach involves both collective decision-making and collective responsibility. It also requires a high level of ongoing coordination to ensure the process is managed effectively. It may require dynamic contact between the Alliance Secretariat with the Deputy President and the Chief Whip, Alliance NOB's from time to time and the Alliance Executive.

Re-examining the need for a Reconstruction Accord

One initial conceptualisation of the RDP was that there should be a Reconstruction Accord between Cosatu and the ANC. The idea was to have a binding agreement or Pact in terms of which broad policy frameworks would be translated into detailed commitments on how various policy areas would be implemented. In the event, this approach was not pursued and the ANC was elected on a broad RDP mandate.

Limited but important advances have been made. However, serious questions have arisen about whether the RDP vision is being followed in vital areas.

It may be necessary to revisit the need for a pact/ accord/ agreement between Cosatu and the ANC or within the Alliance. An Alliance accord would require agreement on the priority tasks of social transformation, government, strategic areas for policy decision, and legislation or other measures needed for implementation. This would need to be an integrated package which provided a solid platform to advance towards the comprehensive implementation of the RDP.

Refusal to consider an Alliance pact or to put forward a viable alternative would be short-sighted.

A national agreement with the ANC presents us with an opportunity to have a joint negotiating position with government when entering into discussions with capital. This could also present an opportunity to the Alliance to bring about a new focus prior to and after the next elections.

Resistance to "social accords" has been largely based on experiences in other countries and fear of no strike provisions and wage restraint. Any agreement would have to be based on mutual trust, transparency and articulation of our strategic objectives. The masses will also need to be brought on board.

A Social Accord does not necssarily imply wage restraint or no strike provisions:

Wage restraint - An Accord in South Africa would need to reorganise the wage structure and raise the living standards of the majority of workers. It may entail restraints or cuts for the high-paid, including management.

No-strike provisions and demobilisation - There is no way the trade union movement would suspend its right to strike. Neither would such a call come from the SACP and ANC. Demobilisation depends on the type of accord negotiated.

Elements of an accord

The issues which form the basis of any national agreement should not I be a wish-list, but strategic issues which will tilt the balance of economic power in favour of the popular forces, by giving the democratic state and its supporting institutions, effective leverage over areas of investment, production and delivery. At the same time, they should raise effective incomes and create basic services, particularly for the poorest 70%.

The combination of supply-side measures to boost production; the elfect of rising demand in the economy, as a result of economic improvements for the majority; and mechanisms by the state to target investment in job creation, would all be part of a coherent strategy to address the crisis of unemployment, particularly for the youth and rural women. Fiscal and monetary policies would have to be realigned to facilitate this strategy, as would the process of restructuring the public service and parastatals.

Two types of interventions would form the core areas of an Alliance agreement.

  • Areas driven and organised by the state. These interventions would be targeted towards providing a social wage across the board, addressing poverty, unleashing economic activity and attacking unemployment. Proposed areas of focus are: public mass housing and infrastructure; a national health system; social safety net (including comprehensive unemployment insurance; old age pensions; etc.); public transport system; land reform; public job creation measures (including public works, procurement and taxation strategies); public sector restructuring accord (agreement on the reorganisation of the public service and parastatals, to ensure delivery); and public investment strategy.
  • Areas primarily implemented in the private sector, but require state regulation. Some of the strategic areas which would need to be focused on are:
    • An income/wage policy. From government's side, the commitment to increase the social wage - and therefore the income of working people as a whole (the goods and services government provides which increase the real value of workers' basic wage) is outlined in the above measures. Also critical is a programme to reduce the apartheid wage gap. A target could be set, setting out the ratios at various levels. This could be included in Employment Equity legislation. Reducing the wage gap would be linked to reorganisation of grading and training.
    • A national training and general HRD drive. Again targets should be set. This should be seen as a key element of affirmative action for workers. The national training levy, proposed in Social Equity should be introduced.
    • Intervention to ensure productive investment in the economy. Measures to ensure productive investment should include prescribed assets which provide that a certain proportion of investments have to go into public projects, and the introduction of tax disincentives to penalise speculation (including the tax on dividends - STC - which the Department of Finance wants to scrap). There should be a deliberate policy to lower interest rates;
    • The creation of a national retirement fund (pension) scheme. This would be compulsory and ensure portability and worker control. It would be a key strategic lever in the economy.
    • Supply side measures and a social plan. Measures to assist the process of restructuring our industries, and to put alternatives in place where industries are down-scaling. Social Equity proposals for a Social Plan Act/Fund, and a National Restructuring Fund for new technology and work organisation.
    • A national employment strategy which limits retrenchments, and creates incentives for job creation, and disincentives for capital intensity.

It is important to note that in all areas, benefits accrue to working people and the poor across the board. Economic benefits are not limited to the employed, in areas such as health, social welfare, housing etc, which a private sector driven policy would tend to do. Proposals in these areas would clearly debunk the myth that trade unions are only narrowly concerned with the welfare of their own members.

The platform outlined may be missing key elements, or may need to be tightened up. However, it conveys the vision of an integrated platform which could provide the basis for an agreement.

Alliance conception of the economic role of the state

There are a range of views within the Alliance on the state's economic role. The RDP envisaged extensive state intervention in a variety of areas, and a leading role for the state in others.

The Alliance needs to audit areas where the state has significant economic muscle and how this can be harnessed for reconstruction.

A brief survey of the institutions under the control, or potential control of the state and trade unions, reveals that the democratic state and its allies potentially have hundreds of billions of Rands directly or indirectly under their control, to lever transformation in the economy. This includes:

  • The national fiscus (budget), through which the state spends billions of Rands annually. Significant portions of this can be harnessed for RDP objectives through procurement policies at all levels;
  • Existing parastatals, which control huge assets and budgets, in strategic areas of the economy such as telecommunications, energy and transport;
  • Potential new parastatals, such as housing, which would give government leverage over areas of the construction industry, pricing of building materials etc.
  • Government intervention in the financial sector, which includes the proposal to set up Post Office Banks, which would service people throughout the country, and provide low interest loans and other services on terms more favourable than the commercial sector;
  • Public control of the pension and provident funds, which are worth close on R500 billion, through the Public Investment Commission for public service pensions, and the setting up of a National Pension Fund, which would amalgamate all existing private sector funds. This would allow workers to direct investment of their capital, including through the use of prescribed assets;
  • The setting up of a Reconstruction Bond for those who want to invest in public reconstruction projects;
  • The harnessing of institutions such as the IDC, DBSA and others to channel investment in job-creating industry, and development projects;
  • Transforming the Reserve Bank to ensure that its monetary policies assist, rather than frustrate expansionary and developmental economic policies;
  • Leverage of the investment potential of the trade unions.

Alliance Accord and Negotiations with Capital

"Transformation is not possible in a developing country like South Africa --not with our history, our incompetent civil service and inexperienced politicians. One should question whether transformation is necessary at all..." (Leading businessman, Millennium magazine, 1996)

No proposal is being made for Cosatu to enter a comprehensive accord with capital, through Nedlac or any other forum. Rather, specific agreements would be entered into with other stakeholders, including capital, on specific areas, for example training. Alliance partners would go into such negotiations within the comprehensive framework set out by the Alliance Agreement.

This would not be confined to Nedlac, but would include other multipartite forums such as the NTB, and industry forums.

We should have no illusion that implementation of the Alliance Agreement will be easily accepted by business. It would represent the most serious concrete challenge by the democratic forces to the relations of economic power in the country.

We should not fall into the trap of the quid pro quo ('this for that') line, which suggests that workers have to sacrifice in order to get what is rightfully theirs. It is ludicrous to suggest for example that workers earning below the poverty line should accept a wage freeze, in order to benefit from basic social security and health care. However, there is nothing wrong with negotiating a national productivity agreement, as proposed in Social Equity, which links productivity improvements to not only wages, but job creation and investment. The trade union movement favours proposals which will lead to an expansion in the economy, as long as this improves workers' lives.

The development of an Alliance Accord in no way contradicts the process of tripartite negotiations in Nedlac or other fora.

An Accord would give a new focus to all the efforts of the alliance. It would guide the ANC in government. For the unions it would give a focus to the annual collective bargaining rounds, and for government, organised labour and the community in Nedlac, it would be the framework for national agreements.

It would be able to win widespread public support, and be the basis to win over sections of business, instead of us constantly acceding to the demands of those who want the government to abandon its election mandate.

Development of Cosatu's Ability to Engage Effectively

" The changing situation demands of us to redefine our role. New methods of dealing with problems, demands and expectations will have to be found. While workers in the past may have joined us because of our links with the Congress movement, in the future they will join us primarily because they expect us to safeguard their interest. . . It will be a sad day for trade unionism if Cosatu was to become a sweetheart federation. Our members will do to us what we have done with the old TUCSA unions." (1994 Exco paper)

The proposals in this paper, no matter how good they are, will have no impact unless we seriously focus our organisation on achieving the objectives we have set out. It is useless lamenting about our lack of capacity when we don't effectively utilise the capacity we already have. We need to harness the structures, experience and expertise we have in our ranks. We are not tapping into the wealth of experience which the collective worker leadership has accumulated over the last two decades. We need to 'regear' the organisation for the challenges facing us.

The Federation's structures need to take political responsibility for developing coherent policy options. Good technical research and scenario planning must be guided by the policy framework we are setting for ourselves. The organisation as a whole must take responsibility for going beyond the generality of Congress resolutions, to develop substantial policy proposals which can be placed on the table for the Alliance to debate.

The involvement of our membership is critical in two respects:

  • In informing the policies and ensuring that there is understanding of the issues which will become highly contested in society at large.
  • To ensure that we lead the process of mobilising society in support of the Alliance's programme for transformation.

The involvement of our membership is vital if the programme we develop is to have long-term legitimacy. We should root the Alliance Accord in an active membership process which not only contributes to its content, but becomes the basis for a continual defence of the programme.

Beyond the shopfloor, we should make resources available to have ongoing forums in the community, embracing our shopstewards and membership, but also members from civics the ANC and SACP, and other community based organisations. A people-driven programme offers an important means of revitalising community structures. If all parts of the democratic movement contribute, a national focus will be brought to the work of all the sections of the community.

Movement for Reconstruction: Congress and various affiliates have made creative proposals ranging from the setting up work brigades to the setting up of a civil society RDP fund, and the donation of working time to the RDP. There needs to be a national campaign by the Alliance to mobilise people around these and other proposals.

We have always maintained that strong organisation is key. While attendance at meetings, marches or stayaways is an important indicator, we should not undermine the strong shopfloor organisation we have as affiliates. While workers may be absent from Cosatu activities, they are available for affiliate activities since they relate closely to their day to day needs as workers. The challenge is to link these activities to the macro issues politically and economically. We require affiliate capacity for affiliates to reach their members and to put aside time for discussions of Cosatu-linked activities.

The challenge for us is to find creative organisational approaches to mobilise our structures around campaigns for transformation, rather than limiting ourselves to reactive oppositional activity. This needs to involve not only the alliance and the MDM, but even the government. Action will activate our structures.

A joint programme should be concretised in campaigns as a way of involving our members in policy formulation, implementation and struggle. We intend to use the proposals in this document as a basis for mass mobilisation of our members. We also need to use this to rekindle worker participation in the ANC, SACP and civics.

The Way Forward

This paper has attempted to outline the need for a new programme and strategy for Cosatu and the Alliance in taking forward the process of transforming our country.

We have proposed, as the core of this strategy, that:

  • The Alliance enter into a National Agreement on a programme to implement the RDP in strategic areas.
  • This Agreement be combined with a programme of national mass mobilisation for transformation.
  • The broad MDM forces need to be involved in the development and implementation of the programme.
  • The ANC, as majority party, needs to align all processes of governance towards achievement of this programme. The same should apply to other Alliance partners.

There is probably a limited window of opportunity allowing such an agreement to be negotiated. There is a danger that the current economic policy direction, and the resultant alienation of the Alliance's constituency, will become so entrenched, as to make the negotiation of such an Agreement impossible.

  • We therefore need to agree on a number of core issues:
  • Whether the broad approach in the proposal is acceptable. If so, how to take it forward in Alliance structures;
  • Further identification, removal or refinement of the strategic issues in our proposal for an Alliance Accord, bearing in mind the need to avoid a wish-list;
  • Mechanisms to develop joint Alliance policy proposals on areas identified for the Alliance Agreement. The Alliance must own the process;
  • Proposals for a programme for mass mobilisation for transformation, and involvement of allies in the MDM;
  • Proposals for transformation of Alliance structures to enable the Alliance to effectively drive such a programme;
  • Measures which need to be taken in Cosatu to ensure our effective participation;
  • Utilising resources available to the democratic movement to assist in development and defence of our macro-economic policies; development of policy options on implementation mechanisms; and monitoring of the implementation of agreed policies by the state; and
  • An approach to governance, given that a number of policy areas have been finalised or are far advanced.

Further that only some of these proposals take us forward in terms of implementing the goals of the RDP. There would need to be an agreement in the Alliance as to how to adjust these, where necessary.


This paper will be presented to all Cosatu structures, which are expected to engage in discussion with a view to arriving at a broad agreement at the Exco in February 1997. Those issues not resolved will be debated at the April CEC or the 6th National Congress.

The paper will also be made available to the ANC and the SACP to help them gain sight of the issues we are debating and to factor them into their own internal discussion, whereafter an Alliance process can be set in place.

The State and Social Transformation

ANC Discussion Document

The following document emerged out of a series of bilaterals between senior ANC ministers and COSATU officials. From November 1996 it received a limited circulation in photo-copied form within the ANC-led alliance and within media circles as an "ANC Discussion Document".


1.1 The struggle for the social and economic transformation of the South African society is essentially the task of replacing the apartheid state with a democratic one.

1.2 The establishment of a democratic state is the task which continues to define the nature and character of the ANC, the Liberation Alliance as well as the broad national democratic movement. This broad political front continues to recognise the leading role of the ANC in the struggle for the economic transformation and social emancipation of South Africa.

1.3 It is the quest to reach this final objective which informs the policies, strategies and tactics of this movement. Over the decades, through its theory and practice, this movement has proved that it is the only vehicle which possesses the capacity to act as the leader of the people in their struggle to establish a truly democratic state.

1.4 The struggle to transform the South African society and emancipate the people takes place within a concrete and ever-changing national and international environment. This environment calls upon the forces for democratic

transformation to pursue their objective always mindful of the changes as well as the subjective and the objective factors which characterise this environment.

1.5 These forces are called upon never to forget that practise is greener than all theory, and that the true test of revolutionary practice, is to be found in the ability to narrow to the minimum the gap between theory and reality.

1.6 The political and constitutional advances which have been made by the ANC and the mass democratic movement since the 1994 democratic elections serve as a firm platform on which a fully democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society can be built. The democratic movement has to take advantage of the many possibilities which this situation provides.

1.7 However, the full meaning of the opportunities and challenges facing the ANC and the democratic movement are contained in the correct identification and analysis of the subjective and objective factors in the national and international environment within which the struggle to establish the South African democratic state is waged.

1.8 If the philosophical tenet which says that "freedom is the appreciation of necessity"; is upheld as correct by social transformers, then the litmus test with which to judge the correctness of the conduct of struggle for social and economic transformation is to be found in the appreciation of the possibilities which these factors provide as well as the limitations which they impose on the conduct of this struggle.

1.9 The democratic movement has to strive, consciously and consistently, and in the context of a dynamic domestic and international situation to understand the essence, potential and imperative of these factors, on the basis on which it can, therefore, measure the effect of its intervention to regulate them.

2. The Apartheid State

2.1 The apartheid state was a social mechanism for the promotion and defence of a system of white minority domination, enrichment and super-exploitation of the black majority.

2.2 This state depended, in the first instance, on the social base of the apartheid system, namely, the majority amongst the white population, for its defence against the revolutionary challenge.

2.3 Taking into account that this section was a small minority of the total population of the country, the ruling group saw it as one of its principal responsibilities to ensure that every white person was given a stake in the apartheid system.

2.4 The situation had to be created such that no white person should feel that, in the event of the destruction of the system of white minority domination, they had nothing to lose.

2.5 With regard to the machinery of state, a number of steps were taken, including the ones listed hereunder.

2.5.1 Jobs for Whites One of these was that many white people were absorbed into the public administration to ensure that they were guaranteed an income, with the resultant proportionate impact on the solution of the "poor white problem"; Secondly, state corporations were formed to create other job opportunities, to direct resources to the white minority and to absorb any residual white unemployed, even if these were superfluous in terms of the organic requirements of these state corporations. Ultimately, the apartheid ruling group saw each and everyone of these whites as an armed counter-revolutionary combatant, active participants in the process on which, finally, the apartheid system depended for its survival, terror and repression. It was therefore not merely driven by altruism to seek a better life for all members of the white minority. It knew that when the moment came, it would have the possibility to use these white beneficiaries of apartheid to defend their stake in the system of white minority domination. Further to strengthen the cohesion of the white social base, it did all it could to infect the white population with the pernicious ideas of racial superiority.

2.5.2 State Repression Given the nature of the apartheid system, the notion of the state as an instrument of repression assumed special prominence. This necessitated that there should be placed within the state bureaucracy people whose tasks related directly to the execution of the function of repression, including the control of the population as a whole. In addition, there had to be maintained security forces of repression at the necessary strength and with sufficient means to meet the mass revolutionary challenge, whatever its growing intensity.

2.5.3 The Second Front As this challenge escalated, the apartheid ruling group decided on other constitutional measures in order to constitute a second front for the defence of apartheid. For instance, it instituted the bantustan system, cloaked in a fraudulent theory of separate development. It sought to ensure that in each of the "state" entities created by this system, there should exist as complete a state machinery as possible which, like its parent, would buy its legitimacy by providing jobs in the bureaucracy as well as carry out the function of repression.

2.5.4 The Third Front The captains of apartheid also decided to create another constitutional front for the defence of apartheid, this being among the Coloureds and Indians. Some of the concepts which defined this front were job reservation, the "own" and "general" affairs and the subsequent thesis that the National Party was the political representative of the minority national groups. As a result of this, yet another process was set afoot to put in place elements of a state machinery to be presided over by a thin layer of politicians who, for better or worse, were prepared to work within the system.

2.5.5 Benevolent Apartheid In the latter years of the apartheid regime, noticeable changes took place with regard to the public accounts. These were:

  • a sustained increase in spending on social services;
  • the transfer of resources from defence to the police;
  • a sustained decline in capital expenditure both by the government and the state corporations; and,
  • a rapid increase of total Government debt. With regard to the first two of these, the 1991 Budget Review of the Department of Finance includes some interesting comments. With regard to expenditure on social services, the Budget Review says:

"The host of urgent socio-economic issues in South African society requires that in certain respects, the composition of state expenditure be urgently and drastically further restructured to effect...greater fairness in government spending in respect of the different communities...In this process (of effecting this change) it is inevitable that in the short term a degree of duplication of government activities will occur, as the conversion of more effective methods of provision proceeds."

"The important shift in emphasis in the composition of government expenditures in favour of developing communities is being done in full confidence that it will make an important contribution to greater domestic stability...The greater stress on socio-economic services represents a leap of confidence that is being made in order to create a more stable climate in South Africa." With regard to the police, the same budget says:

"Regrettably, a portion of the resources released by the downscaling of Defence Force expenditure must go to the maintenance of law and order...Rising crime, the need for certain security steps and mass action requires (sic) a large visible police presence, implying that the emphasis must shift from reactive to pro-active police action with a larger personnel."

2.5.6 Buying Allies Thus we have the party of minority white domination, foreseeing its demise, suddenly taking an interest in "greater fairness in government spending in respect of different communities" Unable to hide the truth, it confesses that it is taking this position to buy "a more stable climate in South Africa." In other words, it sought to wean the masses away from the revolutionary project by buying them out, as it had done with the working white people. The figures below indicate the trends in the functional composition of non-interest consolidated government expenditure (as percentages of the total) during the years 1982/3 to 1994/5 for General Government or, in the latter years, National and Provincial Governments.

 1982/3 1991/21994/5
Protection services 22.6% 23.4% 22.1%
Social services 44,4% 50,8%52.8%
Economic services 21.8%15.2% 14.4%

These figures speak for themselves. At the same time, to deal with those who would refuse to be deluded by the belated benevolence, it transferred resources from Defence, which could not pursue the campaign of external aggression and destabilisation any longer, to the police to empower them to handle "certain security steps and mass action." More work needs to be done to disaggregate the figures relating to expenditure on social services. In the context of our discussion, this relates in particular to a number of civil servants and administrative structures spawned by the additional funding of these services, in part referred to in the Budget Review as a "short term...duplication of government activities...". This would constitute an additional layer of the state administration put in place to buy more allies for the Apartheid regime at a time when it was faced with imminent collapse.

2.5.7 Less Investment Of particular importance is that during the latter years of the apartheid regime, there was, as it has been pointed out, a sustained drop in capital expenditure. In general this means that increased government spending went into consumption - that is, spending on wages, salaries and other personal benefits, whether legally obtained or otherwise. The aim of the additional spending was to increase the amount of money in individual pockets, including the pockets of those who could dispense direct patronage and was not directed at laying the basis for sustainable development. The figures immediately below reflect total government capital expenditure as a percentage of General Government or National and Provincial Government expenditure in the years between 1982/3 and 1994/5.

 1982/3 1992/3 1994/5
Capital expenditure7.4%1 6.6%7.7% More work also needs to be done to assess the disbursements the apartheid state made to increase both immediate and deferred emoluments to the management and other layers of the white civil service, again to purchase the allegiance of these sections of our population in the light of the then impending democratic transformation.

2.5.8 The Public Debt To finance the expenditure associated with the efforts to buy space for the apartheid regime during its last days, the ruling group went on a borrowing spree to finance a level of spending that could not be sustained on the basis of the extant revenue base. The figures below graphically illustrate the evolution of this problem.

Total Government Debt (as at 31 March, 1996) has increased as follows:

 R billion % of GDP
1985 37,133,4
1990 96,038,6
1995 244,654,9
1996 280,065,0 Further to illustrate the emergence of this problem in the latter years of the apartheid regime, we reproduce immediately below figures indicating the Debt Servicing Costs associated with the rising debt.

 R billion % of budget% of GDP
1985/6 4,3 12,93,3
1990/1 11,6 14,2 4,1
1995/6 29,218,65,8 It is important to note that costs will continue to increase and to accelerate as a percentage of the GDP unless the deficit is brought down to sustainable levels. The apartheid ruling group imposed on the country an unprecedented debt burden whose acquisition had to do exclusively with shifting the balance of forces during the period of transition from apartheid to democracy, so that this anti-democratic group would not be as weakened, politically as it would otherwise be, in the contradistinction to the democratic movement.

3. The Apartheid State and Capital

3.1 An outstanding feature of colonialism and apartheid in our country was the direct relationship between this socio-political system and the ability and practice of capital to engage, not only in shouldering an oppressive system, but also in maximising the super-exploitation of the oppressed majority.

3.2 The partnership between successive white minority governments and capital had its logic in the very act of colonisation of South Africa. The establishment of the outpost of the Dutch East India Company in 1652 marked the beginning of the long history of colonisation. This outpost was a direct consequence of economic expansion in Europe and the emergence of a new commercial class which saw colonisation of foreign markets and kingdoms as one of the important ways of multiplying its fortunes.

3.3 The enemy of the oppressed majority therefore clearly defined itself in both national and class terms.

3.4 One of the consequences of this is that the national liberation movement has, for 70 years, contained within itself both a national democratic and a socialist tendency.

3.5 This was a response, not only to the origin of colonialism and apartheid. It was also a response to the fact that a symbiotic relationship between the white minority apartheid state and capital had been cemented. Who, and during which period, the dog was and who the tail, in this relationship, is a matter which the economic historians will have to sort out.

3.6 As the international struggle against apartheid intensified, the racist ruling group found itself in a state of siege which was accompanied by extra-ordinary developments.

3.6.1 These developments included the isolation of the South African economy from the world inter-governmental financial institutions.

3.6.2 It also imposed particular forms of existence and operation of domestic capital. One of these forms was incubation and protection behind high tariff walls.

3.6.3 Another was the guarantee of access to cheap, untrained and unorganised labour.

3.6.4 Yet another was the growth of private monopoly control of the economy.

3.6.5 Another was the insulation of the private sector from the vagaries of foreign exchange fluctuations through the provision of forward cover by the Reserve Bank, with all losses carried by the public accounts.

3.6.6 Yet another was, whatever the requirement to maintain foreign exchange reserves at certain levels, the creation of space for big domestic capital to capture strategic positions in segments of the international economy, so as to use these bridgeheads to break down the state of siege, among other things.

3.6.7 Another was the formation of long-term partnerships with particular international banking and industrial corporations to whom a premium was paid, to ensure their continued involvement in the apartheid economy.

3.7 This symbiotic relationship contained the requirement that particular forms of interaction between the apartheid state and capital should exist.

3.7.1 These included "permitting" the illegal flight of capital.

3.7.2 It made it possible for capital to accept the notion and imposition of the practice of "prescribed assets".

3.7.3 It allowed for the elaboration and institution of "profit guarantee" schemes to capital such as continue to characterise the liquid fuels industry.

3.7.4 It created the possibility and necessity for the state to "turn a blind eye" to the process of tax evasion and avoidance, by running down the capacity of the inland revenue services to carry out their functions effectively.

3.7.5 Towards the end of the life of the apartheid regime, during the 1980s, efforts were made formally and openly to institutionalise the partnership between the state and capital, both to enhance the legitimacy of the apartheid state and to present the interests of capital as being conterminous with "the national interest".

4. The Democratic State

4.1 As the struggle began to present the possibility of the defeat of the apartheid regime, the slogan - Amandla Ngawethu! Power to the People! - took its place as one of the principal battle-calls of the national liberation movement.

4.2 Students of the revolutionary struggle might be interested to note that this slogan replaced another relevant to its time, which was - Africa, Mayibuye - Freedom in our Lifetime!

4.3 Throughout the years that the ANC led with the slogan - Power to the People! - it waged a determined political and ideological struggle to ensure that, both in theory and in practice, this was not misinterpreted and vulgarised to mean - Power to the ANC!

4.4 This position, grounded on a particular understanding of the tasks of the democratic movement, continues to inform the perspective of the ANC on the nature of the democratic state.

4.5 The most important current defining feature of the South African democratic state is that it champions the aspirations of the majority who have been disadvantaged by the many decades of undemocratic rule. Its primary task is to work for the emancipation of the black majority, the working people, the urban poor, the rural poor, the women, the youth and the disabled.

It is the task of this democratic state to champion the cause of these people in such a way that the most basic aspirations of this majority assume the status of hegemony which informs and guides policy and practice of all the institutions of government and state.

4.6 However, there is a need to recognise that the South African democratic state also has the responsibility to attend to the concerns of the rest of the population which is not necessarily part of the majority defined above.

4.7 To the extent that the democratic state is objectively interested in a stable democracy, so it cannot avoid the responsibility to ensure the establishment of a social order concerned with the genuine interests of the people as a whole, regardless of the racial, national, gender and class differentiation.

4.8 There can be no stable democracy unless the democratic state attends to the concerns of the people as a whole and takes responsibility for the evolution of the new society.

4.9 The democratic state should also address the important issue of the just and correct resolution of the national question, which question colonialism and apartheid elevated to a special position of prominence, both theoretically and in practice.

4.10 In a similar vein, the democratic state must also seek to forge a democratic and equitable partnership as well as a working relationship between labour and capital in the interest of social stability, economic progress, reconstruction and development. In the context of the South African situation, the tension between labour and capital demands special attention by the democratic state because it can easily be confused with or can help to exacerbate problems associated with the national question.

4.11 There are a number of important things the democratic state will have to ensure in order to empower the people to be the real custodians of the process of social and economic transformation. The following few examples serve as an attempt at driving this point home.

4.11.1 Popular Participation The empowerment of the people to participate in the process of governance, expressed in the concepts of a people-centred society and people-driven processes of transformation, indicates the centrality of the concept of popular and participatory democracy to the democratic movement's

understanding of the functioning of a democratic state. It shows the commitment of this movement to the proclamation in the Freedom Charter that "The People Shall Govern!". It is the process of the people becoming their own governors. This is one of the central reasons why the democratic movement must resist the liberal concept of "less government", which, while being presented as a philosophical approach towards the state in general, is in fact aimed specifically at the weakening of the democratic state. The purpose of this offensive is precisely to deny the people the possibility to use the collective strength and means concentrated in the democratic state to bring about the transformation of society. The effect of such weakening would be to enhance the strength and impact of other centres of power in society, with the resultant disempowerment of the people. Reference here is to the wide variety of important centres of power which, thanks to the apartheid inheritance, are decisively controlled by the white and privileged section of the population. What this points to is the importance of community-based and non-governmental organisations in the system of governance of the democratic state. Where the people are no longer the enemy of the state, the question arises as to what role the people play with regard to state matters. The issue turns on the combination of the expertise and professionalism concentrated in the democratic state and the capacity for popular mobilisation which resides within the trade unions and the genuinely representative non-governmental popular organisations. The democratic state therefore has a responsibility to ensure that this independent and representative non-governmental sector has the necessary strength to play its role in the ensuring that the people themselves, and in their own interest, become conscious activists for development and social transformation.

4.11.2 Policing The police were front-line troops in the counter-revolutionary offensive in the defence of the system of apartheid. Deployed to act against the oppressed, who constitute the majority of the people, they earned the just hostility of this majority. As the struggle intensified, so did they continuously shift their focus away from fighting crime, towards intensifying their counter-insurgency role as guardians of apartheid. The political police (Security Police/Special Branch), gained pride of place within the police force and were treated as a favoured elite which became a law unto itself. This set the stage for its systematic corruption. This also affected other echelons of the police force, which the ruling group ignored, as long as it was assured that this force was doing its work of protecting white minority rule. Policing in a democratic state requires a radical departure from all these practices of policing in an apartheid state. Policing has to be about ensuring the safety and security of the individual and communities from crime. All states have an inherent "right" to the use of

force against the citizen. The extent of the use of this force is directly proportional to the degree of legitimacy of the state and/or the breakdown of social order. Whereas the continuous resort to force was a distinctive feature of the apartheid state, as a state created as a social organisation directed against the people, the opposite is true of the democratic state. This is so because the latter is a social institution created to serve the interests of the people, with qualitatively diminished activities in the areas of repression and population control. The people, the true beneficiaries of the democratic order and its attendant processes of development and social transformation, themselves share an objective interest in securing their own safety an security as an important factor in the struggle to improve their quality of life. Those who have not understood the central importance of the creation of a new state, have put forward such calls as - "more police, less crime!". On the contrary, what the democratic state requires is:

  • better-trained policemen and women;
  • better policing;
  • the engagement of the masses in the struggle for safety and security; as well as,
  • trust and effective co-operation between the new police service and the people. The point to be made is that once such measures have been put in place, as they should be in a democratic state, less police personnel will be required to protect the community and less state resources would be expended on policing work.

4.11.3 Right-sizing The democratic state does not have the responsibility the apartheid state had to purchase the allegiance of the people to an illegitimate order by placing people in unproductive jobs, as a device to grant them a means of livelihood. This creates the possibility to look closely at the staffing of the state machinery from the Apartheid era to see what is justified in terms of desirable employment and what is merely a body of employees who hold their posts to satisfy the strategic needs of the apartheid system as described above. The logical conclusion to this must be that the construction of the democratic state necessarily entails removing some of the personnel from the public service, to the extent that these do not add value to that particular task of the democratic state with regard to meeting the needs of the people. The democratic state must prepare and position its personnel and institutions in such a way that in terms of skills, efficiency and dedication to the interests of the customer, they can optimise the service. It must deliberately and systematically set out to ensure that it has the most skilled and the best motivated work-force in the country. Building "a better life for all" requires of the democratic state that it constitutes itself in such a manner that it provides this better life in the most cost effective way. The objectives of efficiency and high levels of productivity, and the levels of work discipline, managerial responsibility, accountability and responsiveness to the public interest, have to become the hallmark of the performance of the public service. Organised sections of the public service work-force, who had been part of bringing into being the democratic state, must provide the leadership to the rest of the public service in upholding these norms. The issue therefore does not turn only on "right-sizing". It also bears on the skill levels, competitive earnings, the motivation and the philosophical orientation of the new public service unique to the democratic state. Needless to say, this has an important impact on the structuring of public expenditures on wages, salaries, benefits, goods and services, whose acceptability has to be measured according to whether this restructuring is consistent with the objective of creating a lean, mean and customer-serving public service.

5.The Democratic State and Capital

5.1 The defeat of the apartheid regime raises the question of what the democratic revolution should do with capital, which was such an important and central factor in the totality of forces responsible for the anti-human misery baptised as apartheid.

5.2 Much of the confusion that occasionally afflicts the democratic movement arises from the oscillation within this movement between the objective of the establishment of a democratic state and the wish to establish a state whose distinctive feature would be the total defeat and suppression

of both the national and the class forces responsible for the system of national oppression and class super-exploitation epitomised by apartheid.

5.3 Hazily understood though this may be at this moment, it is around this strategic choice that the ultra-left has failed to appreciate the objective imperatives of the current era in social development.

5.4 A number of practical issues arise out of this strategic "choice" to fight for the graduated creation of a democratic state to replace the apartheid state. Firstly, it is instructive to note that the historic and objective reality at this stage of human development is that the bulk of capital, as investible wealth, is in private hands, both domestically and internationally.

5.5 Secondly, investment, or capital, is crucial to the creation of the material conditions which make it possible continuously to improve the conditions of life of the people. To talk of new factories, new technologies, adequate job creation is, ultimately, is to talk of new investment.

5.6 Thirdly, already in the last century, students of political economy had noted the tendency of capital to operate internationally, unconstrained by questions of boundaries of national states or the sovereignty of these states. Clearly, in the modern period there has been a rapid acceleration of this tendency, with capital treating the entire world as one market-place.

5.7 This process of acceleration has also affected the speed with which capital relocates from one area of the world economy to another, driven by short-term or long-term considerations affecting the generation and accumulation of profit.

5.8 The freer and more rapid movement of capital across national boundaries has been described as a process of globalisation of the economy, one of whose effects is to reduce the sovereign capacity of states to take decisions without consideration of, and inserting such decisions within the context of the world situation as a whole.

5.9 It has already been stated that the democratic state has got a developmental and a transformative responsibility. Among other things, this responsibility has to do with the central question of the creation of material conditions to ensure that the people as a whole benefit from this process through a rising standard of living and a continuous and all-round improvement in the quality of life. This responsibility would be impossible without a similarly continuous process of increasing productive investment in the economy, in both absolute and relative terms.

5.10 Because of human intervention and therefore the social context within which this investment takes place, this process of creation describes a set of social relations, whose study is correctly called political economy, to make the point that it is a study in social relations rather than an inquiry into the laws governing motion in nature.

5.11 Objectively, this places the process of investment, as an inalienable component part of material development, formally among the historic driving forces of progressive social change and transformation.

5.12 Consequently, the democratic state has an obligation to harness this driving force to ensure that the state and capital act in concert, balancing and meeting the interests of these two forms of social organisation. This consideration raises two urgent questions of strategic and historical importance which the democratic movement must address.

5.13 One of this is the determination that one of the central tasks of the democratic state is the mobilisation of "the surplus" both domestically and internationally, for investment and therefore the encouragement of the domestic and international owners of capital to take and act on decisions consistent with the attainment of this objective.

5.14 For their part, it should be acknowledged, these private owners are driven by the requirement continuously to reproduce and increase the volume of capital in their hands. They do this through the generation of profit, which is a fundamental condition for the existence of capital.

5.15 The second question arises from the pursuit of this objective and has to do with how the democratic sate should therefore define its relationship, on the subjective sphere, with the class forces described as owners of capital.

5.16 Proceeding from the objective reality of the place and role of private capital described above, which exists independent of our subjective wishes, the correct strategic decision the democratic movement must take is that the democratic state must establish a dialectical relationship with private capital as a social partner for development and social progress. The defining element is a working and harmonious, even at times, conflictual relationship between the democratic state and capital. It is a relationship which is necessarily complex and dialectical rather than simple and linear.

5.17 This is meant to describe a complex, contradictory, co-operative and dynamic relationship, many of whose elements are formed or decided at the international level. What is certain is that there is a need for co-existence and co-operation between the democratic state and private capital in order to address social development, of which both the state and capital are an expression and on which they also have a decisive impact.

5.18 In the event of the failure of the democratic state to secure co-operation and necessary delivery from capital, which can translate to the failure to ensure the creation of new jobs, better social services and a sustained improvement in the condition of life, in both absolute and relative terms, the door shall have been opened to the forces of reaction and counter-revolution.

5.19 It is therefore imperative from the strategic point of view for the democratic movement and government to elaborate programmes of action to realise the objectives spelt out in this argument. What the democratic state and movement say and do in this regard has to be consistent, clear and without equivocation.

5.20 As it has been stated above that the democratic state has to attend to the genuine concerns of all other social and national groups, it also has to attend to the concerns of private capital if it has to ensure industrial stability, sustainable economic growth and a secure political democracy. It has to try to balance different and at times conflicting interests whilst addressing the needs of the people over a wide variety of spheres.

5.21 This point emphasises the fact that the democratic state serves the interests of the people in a differentiated manner, in part responding to the fact that each of the groups that make up society has the possibility and right to present its unique claims to the state. It is in that context that the obligations of the democratic state to the people may not, at all times, be consistent with what capital may consider its legitimate and justified pursuits.

5.22 The days of the "robber barons" are clearly over. The regulatory role of the state, exercised through legislation, fiscal and monetary policy and adherence to international agreements and conventions, is an integral part of the ordering of modern societies.

5.23 However, the democratic state must be aware that the vested interests of capital will try their best to ensure the protection of those of their interests which were guaranteed by the apartheid state and which they feel they cannot protect through their own actions.

5.24 On the hand private capital must recognise that the democratic state offers the best possible environment for the realisation of the interests of capital. So the partnership between the democratic state and capital is mutually beneficial. The alternative is an environment of social and economic dislocation which is not conducive to the interests of the two parties. It is true that history has examples of the situation where capital made fortunes under dictatorial regimes.

5.25 The reality, however, is that capital had to take joint responsibility with those regimes for the multiplication of the anguish suffered by the oppressed and super-exploited because, invariably capital had to take measures to try to stem the imminent or existent social upheaval. In addition, capital owners were themselves not free because they had to perpetually suffer the uncertainty of when the day of the upheaval would come.

5.26 Out of the multiple issues that belong with this relationship, what stands out as the defining element that enables the strategic partnership between the democratic state and capital is the progress achieved through new investment to increase the capacity to create improved material conditions.

6. The Democratic State and Labour

6.1 Labour, just like capital, stands at the centre of the creation of the material conditions which make it possible continuously to improve the conditions of life of the people as a whole.

6.2 The creation of improved material conditions cannot be achieved nor can it be sustained without the working class's readiness and freedom to sell its labour power. The freedom to sell labour power should be understood also to mean that conditions must be created whereby the labour force can participate in economic production as a respectable and mutual beneficiary in the process of production.

6.3 This therefore has to mean that the working class together with the democratic state and capital completes the proverbial golden triangle necessary for the development and transformation of society.

6.4 However, the process of the building of the new democracy has to contend with the present material reality of the working class in general and the black section of the working class in particular.

6.5 This section of the working class, like the rest of the black people, continues to suffer from the legacy of national oppression the super-exploitation under the colonial and apartheid system. This is expressed by such issues as the gross racial disparities in wages, incomes and skills, continuing racism at the work place, racial disparities in living conditions, the quality of life, unemployment levels and so on.

6.6 This objective reality provides the basis for one of the defining features of the relationship between the democratic state and the black section of the working class as well as the trade union formation representative of this class.

6.7 In addition, this is consistent with the reality that the black section of the working class was one of the principal motive forces in the struggle for the defeat of the apartheid system. This section understood that it could succeed to address its class concerns, which are not different from those of the working class in socio-economic systems similar to that of the South African society, when it was freed of the disability imposed on it by its oppression as part of the system of apartheid national oppression.

6.8 Then it is to be expected that this section of the working class, together with its representative organisations, would be best poised to assume a stance that is developmental and transformative. It will therefore be expected to do everything in its power to ensure the speediest advance towards the realisation of its material interests.

6.9 This understanding emphasises the centrality of the continuing and special role of the progressive trade union movement and its leadership to the mobilisation of the black workers to understand and adhere, to the broader objectives of the process of democratic transformation, in their own interest.

6.10 The instinct towards "economism" on the part of the ordinary workers has to be confronted through the positioning of the legitimate material demands and expectations of these workers within the wider context of the defence of the democratic gains as represented by the establishment of the democratic state.

6.11 If the democratic movement allowed that the subjective approach to socio-economic development represented by "economism" should overwhelm the scientific approach of the democratic movement towards such development, it could easily create the conditions for the possible counter-revolutionary defeat of the democratic revolution.

6.12 The task of educating the working class on the need to correctly balance the short term material gain with the longer objective to build sustainable economic growth and a secure democracy, is not the task to be left to the progressive trade union alone. It is the task of the unions as representatives of the working class but it is also the task of the entire democratic movement as the custodian of the aspirations of the democratic majority which includes the black section of the working class.

6.13 Furthermore, the democratic movement as led by the ANC should make it one of its priorities to ensure that, at all times, the progressive trade union movement is built, consolidated and made to appreciate its strategic role in the total emancipation of the South African society.

6.14 An infantile and subjective response to the democratic victory which resulted in an attempt by the popular forces to secure their sectional economic "victories" now and at all costs, would objectively produce its own opposite - the potential political defeat of these forces and the destruction of the economic base which is necessary for the sustained improvement in the conditions of life of the ordinary working people. The entire democratic movement, must assume the responsibility for the future of the country - today, tomorrow and the day after.

6.15 The democratic trade union movement has to take its place among the forces for democracy which through policy formulation and implementation of that policy, engage in the discharge of the developmental and transformative tasks of the democratic state, in the interests of the people.

6.16 It is to deny the progressive trade union movement the possibility to play this role, and to facilitate its regression to the positions of "economism" and narrow "revolutionary militancy" that the opponents of the democratic movement are vigorously promoting the idea that, as the ruling force, the rest of the democratic movement must distance itself from its trade union and working class component part.

6.17 As during the period of the struggle for the defeat of the apartheid regime and the transfer of power to the people, the progressive union leadership cannot abandon its place and role among the political forces for the democratic transformation of society, by defining the interests of the working class as solely economic, and deciding that those interests are best served by a sectarian detachment of the working class from the rest of the people.

7. The Democratisation of the Economy

7.1 The deracialisation and democratisation of the economy is one of the key tasks of the democratic state. This task should not be understood in the narrow sense of "black economic empowerment" whose only and ultimate goal is only the creation of a "black bourgeoisie". This task should be aimed at maximising the number of ordinary communities who increase they share of participation, not only in creating improved material conditions, but also in determining the depth, direction and pace of economic transformation.

7.2 The democratic movement must resist the right-wing offensive for the "withering away of the democratic state", which includes an attempt to reduce the capacity of the democratic state to intervene in the economy. Equally, it must refuse to be converted into ideological adherents or opponents of privatisation. As on the question of privatisation, the guiding position should be that these processes are instruments which can be used to achieve reconstruction and development objectives.

7.3 The democratic state has the capacity to make an important impact on the economy through the capital in its own hands, represented by state corporations.

7.4 The democratic state should endeavour to address the deracialisation and democratisation of the economy in the course of addressing such questions as infrastructure development and provision of affordable services, attraction of foreign investment, infusion of modern technology and managerial skills and acceleration of the human resource development. It should be ready to reposition these state assets so that they help to achieve these objectives. Surely the democratic state cannot adopt a "business as usual" approach as, indeed, these assets were built up and positioned to address the objectives of an apartheid state.

7.5 The democratic state should also interact with big capital, domestically and internationally, with the aim of engaging these sections of capital in the process of economic empowerment of the black majority. Part of the answer to this question lies in the relationship between the democratic state and private capital. The democratic state has to define common mutually beneficial interests with private capital.

7.6 It is to be expected that some sections of capital, especially domestic capital, will respond in a lukewarm fashion to the objective of black economic empowerment and specifically it element of the deracialisation of ownership of capital. This arises, in part, from the force of the inertia of the apartheid and racist past. It would also derive from fear that the growth of the volume of black owned-capital represents an offensive ultimately to replace white with black ownership of capital as a whole.

7.7 It is the task of the democratic movement and state to make owners of capital aware that the democratic settlement is permanent and has its own authentic internal momentum. Owners of capital should be made to realise that their long-term interests are best served by economic emancipation of the black majority, the creation of a non-racial economy, the attainment of a free and competitive environment, and ultimately by social and economic stability which can serve to further nurture the culture important to a modern economy.

7.8 Capital must be made to understand that one of the greatest challenges ahead is to achieve a full and unrestricted integration in world affairs and the need to cope with the demand for active and friendly relations with the entire world. The South African economy no longer operates in siege conditions of relative (economic) autarky.

7.9 Both the form and content of the relationship between the democratic state and capital has to be informed by the new objective reality that now a democratic state exists, and that this state is an unrestrained participant in the ordering of world affairs.

7.10 For its part, and as a fundamental condition for the discharge of its developmental and transformative responsibilities, the democratic state has an objective interest in ensuring that a "black bourgeoisie" does not get formed as a result of:

  • theft of public resources, or,
  • the prostitution of particular nationals by foreign capital.

7.11 Without the open intervention of the democratic state to facilitate the process of the democratisation of the economy, it is inevitable that these two processes of the birth of a "black bourgeoisie" would occur, with a fatal impact on the building of a democracy representative of the people as a whole.

7.12 The Public Accounts

7.12.1 Another instrument in the hands of the democratic state whose use also impacts on the economy is the national budget. It impacts on the economy in various ways.

7.12.2 These include the drawing of revenues from the economy through taxation and other levies, the spending of those revenues to meet government obligations, as well as borrowing from the capital markets, in the event of the levels of expenditure exceeding the revenues already mentioned.

7.12.3 Needless to say, the larger these quantities are, as a proportion of the gross domestic product, the more likely that their effect will be felt in the economy. To understand the nature of this effect, it is necessary to understand that every economic system has its regularities - what might be called its laws of development, which operate independently of individual wishes.

7.12.4 In the context of the discussion underway, this emphasises the point that, relatively, it is possible to predict the economic consequences of the budget decisions that the government may take. Given its developmental nature, the democratic state must of necessity concern itself about the impact that its budget policies may have on the possibility to build the capacity to create improved material conditions.

7.12.5 It would therefore seek to achieve the right balance between consumption and investment in its own expenditure patterns, mindful of the influence it can have on the interaction between the supply and demand factors in the making of the national economy.

7.12.6 But equally, in the context of the mixed economy, it would be sensitive about the effect, particularly on the capacity of the economy as a whole to invest, that the channelling, through taxation and borrowing, of a portion of the gross domestic product into the state coffers, would have. This is more so if the greater part of this portion is devoted to consumption, or more broadly, recurrent expenditure.

7.12.7 To complicate the matter further, the servicing of the state debt means the diversion of public resources from other uses. Money spent to pay interest to the lender is money not available to build a classroom, a house or a clinic. This is why the resort to borrowing to finance consumption expenditure is, in the end, a recipe for disaster. Since such consumption does not produce new and improved material conditions the mounting service and redemption obligations would result in bankruptcy of the state. It is self-evident that this is a result to be avoided.

7.12.8 Of importance also is, apart from the volume of the debt, the cost of servicing it. This relates to the interest that must be paid as a first charge on the public revenues. In a situation of limited resources, public borrowing can have the effect of raising interest rates.

7.12.9 Not only does this increase the cost of servicing the public debt, and therefore result in the reduction of state resources available for development, it also increases the cost of borrowing on everybody else in the economy. This includes the individual who borrows to finance the purchase of a house, consumer goods, etc. as well as the person who borrows for the purpose of starting a new business or expanding operations, with particular reference to small and medium business.

7.12.10 The inflationary effect of these processes further impacts most negatively on the poorest, who include those who have no power to adjust their incomes to keep up with the rate of corrosion of their earnings, such as the unemployed or under-employed beneficiaries of the "social welfare system of extended families", pensioners, and small savers.

8. Economic Determinism

8.1 The essential point being made here is that the democratic movement and state must never entertain the notion of voluntarism with regard to economic questions, according to which the concept takes hold that the subjective can assume ascendancy and preponderance over the objective, in violation of the laws of motion governing the objective sphere.

8.2 It is this lurch into subjectivism which, in the history of human development, led to such experiments as "The Great Leap Forward", which was, in reality, its own opposite. It also informs our knowledge of the reasons why many "economic bubbles" burst, despite the amounts of investible funds thrown at these economic mirages.

8.3 This is not to assert a theory of economic determinism, which is standard fare in modern right-wing political philosophy, according to which the creation of wealth is governed by some mystical "market", which is amorphous, disembodied, colourless, odourless and ethereal.

8.4 The right-wing tendency in both domestic and international politics agitates for the universal acceptance of a false view of a world dominated by the impact of "the free market". In reality, this serves as a means to expand the "predator space" of the most powerful sections of capital, whose socially negative impact has, within the present epoch, resulted in the condemnation by ideological adherents of private property of the phenomenon of "the unacceptable face of capitalism".

8.5 This is not to deny that the process of the globalisation of the world economy is, simultaneously, accompanied, and perhaps driven, by a world tendency towards the concentration and centralisation of capital.

8.6 Rather, the point being made is that the subjective intervention in social development must take into account the reality that the possibility to intervene successfully is determined by the extent to which there is appreciation of the regularities which govern social behaviour.

8.7 In other words, a dialectical relationship exists between the objective and the subjective, according to which social transformers are neither prisoners of ineluctable forces of "free market" capitalist development, nor free agents of popular empowerment who can write any letter of the alphabet as they wish, because what they have in front of them is a tabula rasa.

8.8 The reality is that the democratic movement, which functions in a state in which capital is largely in private hands, is locked into an equation which contains both these elements. The ability to address this contradiction successfully, in the context of the developmental and transformative tasks of the democratic state, constitutes one of the major challenges of leadership for change.

8.9 With regard to this, the directive principle in the world of the philosophers is stated as - freedom is the recognition of necessity!

8.10 In other words, we are able to free ourselves from enslavement by the objective regularities of the process of development only to the extent that we understand the essence and imperatives of these objective regularities, and can, therefore, measure the effect of our subjective intervention to regulate these objective regularities.

8.11 The destabilising theoretical and practical reality and the enemy of dogmatic certainty is that - social transformers are neither slaves nor free agents: they are both slaves and free agents!

8.12 To deal with this real world, the democratic movement has to strive, consciously and consistently, and in the context of a dynamic domestic and international situation, to understand the impact on development and transformation of such issues as taxation and public revenues, public expenditure, budget deficits, monetary and exchange rate policy.

9. South and Southern Africa

9.1 If the efforts aimed at defeating underdevelopment in South Africa are to succeed, they must of necessity be accompanied by the struggle to try and defeat underdevelopment in Southern Africa as a whole.

9.2 The apartheid state could and did try to guarantee the growth of South African capital through its expansion into the rest of the region as a dominant and exploitative force, backed by a machinery of aggression and the extension of the white colonial order into the rest of the region.

9.3 On the contrary, the approach intrinsic to the democratic state is that capital must exist and grow in conditions of freedom and democracy, both within South Africa and in the rest of the region. This underlines the interdependence of the countries and peoples of our region and coincides with the tendency of capital to operate internationally.

9.4 The "elemental and spontaneous" process of the collapse of the colonially imposed national boundaries within the region has to be replaced by a conscious and inclusive process of constructing equal and mutually beneficial relations among the countries of Southern Africa. One of the results of this process must be the building of a common economic market which would ensure balanced economic development in the region as a whole.

9.5 This process of "conscious regionalisation and globalisation" would not only help the democratic state consciously and constructively to impact on the movement of people and goods already taking place within the region, but also create the best conditions for sustained regional development based on the faster reproduction of capital, the acceleration of the process of the attraction of foreign capital into the region, the growth of trade and the strengthening of the bargaining position of the countries of the region in the ordering of international economic and other relations.

9.6 This challenges the entire democratic movement, in the context of a democratic system of international relations, to address the complex issue of all-round regional co-operation and development as one of the fundamental objectives of our revolution.

10. An Historic Opportunity

10.1 The entry of South Africa into the community of democratic states has been greeted internationally as an epoch-making event. This has happened, in part, because this event took place at an historical moment marked by great changes in world politics and the world economy.

10.2 Coming at the moment that it did, the change in South Africa suggested that the new democracy was both an expression of these changes and, more important, that it also had the possibility to be at the cutting edge of these processes of political and economic change.

10.3 This would happen because the new democracy would have the possibility to learn from the accumulated experience of all humanity and seize the historic opportunity presented by the challenge to destroy the old state, to construct its own policies, practices and institutions taking into account the most progressive achievements of humanity to date. It is an historic opportunity the democratic movement dare not throw away through a refusal to think in a bold and innovative manner.

10.4 Part of that thinking must relate to the reconstruction and development of the South African economy on the basis of modern means of production, which draw their own dynamism from the scientific and technological revolution.

10.5 This suggest immediately, for instance, that the democratic state must push very hard to build the infrastructure that would put South Africa on the "Information Super-highway", with all the possibilities for the modernisation of society which this communication and information infrastructure would present.

10.6 Some of the basic things the democratic state must do if it is to take advantage of this historic opportunity would be to create the possibility for sustained economic success through such measures as:

  • the expansion of the domestic market;
  • raising the skills level of both management and workers;
  • modernising the technological base of the economy;
  • building a regional economy capable of providing a better life for all the peoples of Southern Africa;
  • improving marketing within and access to the world economy; and,
  • opening South Africa to the progressive impact of the international mobility of capital, skills, goods and services.

11. International Regulation

11.1 Contrary to the views of the ideologues of "the free market", the functioning of the world economic system is becoming more regulated. This has nothing to do with the nature of this market but rather it has to do with the reality that the world market is, in fact, less and less free.

11.2 This historical tendency serves to emphasise the importance of the international institutions that are relevant to, or impact on these economic questions.

11.3 Inevitably this enhances the importance of the Bretton Woods institutions. It also helps to stress the importance of such bodies as the WTO. The UN and its relevant specialised agencies do, in this context, also regain recognition of their importance.

11.4 An important feature of the modern world economy is also represented by the birth and development of regional economic groupings such as the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN, MERCOSUR, ECOWAS, SADC and others. Once more, these represent an attempt to regulate economic relations rather than allow a situation of international laissez faire.

11.5 In this context, the democratic movement must take into account the fact that the world is witness to the globalisation, centralisation and concentration of capital, which leads to the birth of corporations whose decisions affect millions of people across boundaries and the economic future of countries. The world economy is tending towards greater regulation, in the interests, and with the urging, both of capital and the state, both at the domestic and international levels.

11.6 Add to this the progress towards the development of international capital markets which further brings its own challenges to the assumed sovereignty of the nation state. The economic globalisation and the effect of technological progress on the world scale imposes a certain surrender of a nation state's control over many areas. These areas would include currency and fiscal policies, environmental control and global warming, the effect of the new international division of production and labour and the illegal narcotics trade.

11.7 In this larger and more integrated sense, national security becomes increasingly inseparable from international security and there is increasing reliance on transnational or subnational agencies in the pursuit of overall social and economic security.

11.8 As South Africa inserts itself into the world described above, it must take seriously the task of ensuring that, as a state, necessary impact is made in terms of the evolution of international economic and social relations.

11.9 This calls for a sophisticated, complex and dynamic foreign policy which can be broadly defined, but clearly, not fossilised in a "foreign policy White Paper", whose distinguishing feature would be its irrelevance from the moment it was printed. There is a need for a foreign policy which would be informed not only by a government Department of Foreign Affairs, but also by those who, by playing a role in the economy, help to decide whether the people shall, or shall not have, a better life.

11.10 It must also be guided by the understanding that South Africa's ability to make a real impact on world affairs is dependent on the success achieved in forming stable alliances with other countries with whom, broadly, she shares the same strategic interests. Democratic South Africa cannot, on its own, influence world events.

11.11 The democratic movement must resist the illusion that a democratic South Africa can be insulated from the processes which characterise world development. It must resist the thinking that this gives South Africa a possibility to elaborate solutions which are in discord with the rest of the world, but which can be sustained by virtue of a voluntarist South African experiment of a special type, a world of anti-apartheid campaigners, who, out of loyalty to us, would support and sustain such voluntarism.


12.1 The democratic movement must elaborate its own slogans to express the strategic perspectives indicated in this Discussion Document.

12.2 These slogans must be consistent with the overall strategic perspective of the democratic movement, which remains the all-round emancipation of the black oppressed, especially the African majority.

12.3 The issues these slogans must address include:

  • the replacement of the apartheid state with the democratic state;
  • the commitment of the democratic state to reconstruction and development;
  • a better life for all;
  • the mobilisation of the masses of the people to govern themselves in the context of the objective that "the people shall govern";
  • a new and patriotic partnership for development and transformation;
  • the progress of the region of Southern Africa;
  • the African Renaissance; and,
  • the unity of the poor of the world, for peace, democracy and progress.

We Need Transformation not a Balancing Act

- looking critically at the ANC Discussion Document

Blade Nzimande (SACP Deputy Chairperson and ANC NWC member) and Jeremy Cronin (SACP Deputy General Secretary and ANC NEC member) critique the ANC discussion document. They argue that the document represents a serious back-sliding, in which the goals of transformation are forgotten in a narrow-minded pursuit of stability at all costs.

The last months of 1996 produced a number of strategic stock-taking documents from within our movement. The timing of this batch of documents was not entirely accidental. The ANC-led government was half-way through its first term in office. Two-and-a-half years of governance had seen major changes in our country, but also many difficulties, some foreseen and others unforeseen. Across our alliance there was a sense that we had accumulated an experience that needed to be reflected upon.

The strategic documents included the SACP's Central Committee discussion document, Let us not lose sight of our strategic priorities; the ANC Youth League's Organisational and leadership issues in the ANC; an ANC discussion document, The State and Social Transformation; and COSATU's A Draft Programme for the Alliance.

There are some important convergences between all of these strategic discussion papers, but there are also some noteworthy differences, especially between the State and Social Transformation document and all the rest. It is to this ANC document that we wish to pay some attention. But first some observations which we believe should serve as a background to our critique.

A process of broad discussion under way

The ANC's National Executive Committee's Lekgotla, held at the end of January this year (1997), has taken a formal resolution that the ANC, SACP and COSATU documents, referred to above, should now be actively debated and discussed within the ANC itself, in the run-up to the ANC National Conference in December this year. We obviously greatly welcome this decision.

Even before this decision, at the SACP Central Committee meeting in early December last year, comrade Thabo Mbeki, acting in his capacity as ANC Deputy President, presented the ANC discussion document to the CC. He engaged (and often agreed) with many of the criticisms of the ANC paper that we will elaborate below. (Incidentally, while he played a role in some of its formulations, cde Mbeki is frequently, but inaccurately, labelled "the author" of the State and Social Transformation document.)

We mention all of these specific points to make one thing clear. While elements in the commercial media will, as always, present a debate on the ANC paper as "SACP (or COSATU) left-wing dissidence", we are, in fact, participating in a broad and necessary debate. Opinions and perspectives are not neatly delineated down organisational lines. Neither the SACP nor ANC documents are formally endorsed positions within our respective organisations. We cannot let the possibility of labelling block comradely debate.


We do not disagree with everything contained in the State and Social Transformation document. Indeed, its central theme is absolutely correct. The apartheid regime cynically endeavoured to prolong its own existence by constructing a bloated, colonial and neo-colonial-type state apparatus, built on racial welfarism for whites, and on collaborative, patronage networks for some strata among the black oppressed majority. The ANC paper documents this well, and makes a real contribution to our better understanding of it. Apartheid has now left us with an unworkable, deeply indebted and thoroughly corrupt bureaucratic legacy.

We also agree that, whatever the difficulties and shortcomings of the past three years, there have been important changes in our country, and we must not be shy to claim victories. Part of our opponents' agenda is to sow demoralisation and confusion.

On a more theoretical level, we agree with the ANC discussion paper that we cannot indulge in voluntarism, the illusion that everything is possible, and that all we need is sheer will power. We are seeking to transform our country but on a national, regional and international terrain that is not of our own choosing. This requires strategic renewal and creative thinking on our part. No-one is arguing that there are easy answers.

There are, however, some key issues which we believe are handled in a very weak or problematic way in the State and Social Transformation paper.

The role of the new democratic state

The paper sees the role of the new democratic state as essentially "regulatory" (it uses this word a great deal). Or, put another way, it sees the new state as a mediator between different "interest groups" in society, and particularly between "capital" and "labour". For instance, in paragraph 6.1 it says:

"Labour, just like capital, stands at the centre of the creation of the material conditions which make it possible to continuously improve the conditions of life of the people as a whole"; and then it adds in 6.3: "This therefore has to mean that the working class together with the democratic state and capital complete the proverbial golden triangle necessary for the development and transformation of society". We have here a technicist, "neutral" state, constituting the apex of a triangle, and equidistant from capital and labour.

This is a radical and curious shift from the ANC's strategy and tactics document of 1994 which, capturing a very long tradition in the ANC, sees the working class as the leader of the national democratic revolution. The discussion paper perspective begs the very important question of how one reconciles the notion of a golden triangle, of both labour and capital standing equally at the centre of improving the conditions of life of the people, with the leadership of the working class and its allies over the national democratic revolution.

The discussion paper's mythical, class-less state also coincides with a very statist (or state centred) conception of the transformation tasks in front of us. Very little room is left for the active participation of other social forces. "1.1 The struggle for the social and economic transformation of the South African society is essentially the task of replacing the Apartheid state with a democratic one."

There is a great deal that is profoundly troubling about this way of approaching our new democratic state, and it stands in marked contrast to the perspectives in the SACP and COSATU documents on the role of our new state. In these latter cases the state, it is argued, needs to play a much broader and more active role. These interventions call for a state that is "developmental", "active", and catalysing, as opposed to a state that is primarily regulatory in character.

Both the COSATU and SACP documents argue for a state that is actively "aligned to a progressive/worker dominated movement (which does not mean the South African developmental state should forego partnerships and interaction with capital)" (SACP, 4.1). At the heart of the COSATU document is an attempt to give concrete content to this alignment - COSATU proposes, and gives some detail on, a Tripartite Alliance Reconstruction Accord. (Incidentally, the ANC 1994 "Strategy and Tactics" document also clearly asserts the need for this kind of class alignment.)

Likewise, both the SACP and COSATU documents, and the ANC YL document, are highly critical of statist exaggerations over the last two-and-a-half years. COSATU criticises the way in which policy and implementation have been driven by individual ministries in a technocratic and atomised way. The COSATU document singles out government's macro-economic policy position, "Growth, Equity and Redistribution" (GEAR ), in particular, but it sees GEAR as only one among many such examples.

The idea of harnessing the combined force of state power and mobilised mass formations is completely foreign to the ANC document, but lies at the centre of how the other papers envisage the transformation effort.

Class realities in the new SA

The ANC discussion document's slide into a technocratic, "class-neutral" approach to politics is partly based on its inability to think clearly about class realities in the new South Africa.

The document asserts that we "must ...seek to forge a democratic and equitable partnership...between labour and capital in the interest of social stability, economic progress, reconstruction and development. In the context of the South African situation, the tension between labour and capital demands special attention by the democratic state because it can easily be confused with...the national question."

Obviously, at a conceptual level, capitalist class exploitation (and that is what it is, not mere "tension") and racial oppression are not one and the same thing. However, the ANC document is not making a theoretical point in this passage, it is seeking, in practice, to isolate class struggle from the struggle to resolve the national question.

Is the document seriously asking us not to be "confused" by the suspicion that the present powers of capitalists in our country have something to do with massive colonial land dispossession, the imposition of pass laws on African workers, the outlawing of non-racial trade unions, or the racist expropriation of African, Coloured and Indian small businesses? Can we advance, deepen and defend the national democratic revolution without connecting, in practice, class and national struggles? Do the April 1994 elections simply draw a veil over past capitalist accumulation, and its present consequences? Or should we now, in the "interest of social stability", just keep quiet about such matters?

Back in 1978, comrade Thabo Mbeki wrote: "Of the bourgeois countries, South Africa is unique to the extent that profit maximisation is the overt, unhidden and principal objective of state policy, and can therefore be regarded with respect to this characteristic as an almost perfect model of capitalism cleansed of everything that is superfluous to its essential characterisation; a model which displays to all, in their true nakedness, the inner motive forces of this social system and its fundamental inter-connections." (Mbeki, "The Historical Injustice", in Selected Writings on the Freedom Charter, 1955-1985, ANC, 1985).

We are not sure if national oppression in South Africa can be reduced simply to an essence: capitalist exploitation, as Mbeki is arguing in 1978. But he is right that there is a deep complicity between national oppression and class exploitation. They are "confused", in reality, with each other. This is surely a much better basis for approaching our current realities, than the perspectives articulated in "State and Social Transformation".

Dealing with "capital"

Directly related to this in the ANC discussion document is the curious and confusing way in which it uses the concept "capital". It constantly slides between:

  1. "capital" - meaning factors of production - financial resources, raw materials, machinery, land, etc.; and
  2. "capital" - meaning capitalists, a small but powerful class of private owners of many of the above factors of production, who use this private ownership to appropriate the product of other peoples' labour.

This slide between the two ways of using the word "capital" is very transparent in paragraph 5.14: "For their part, it should be acknowledged, these private owners are driven by the requirement continuously to reproduce and increase the volume of capital [sense number one] in their hands. They do this through the generation of profit, which is a fundamental condition for the existence of capital [sense number two]."

If you confuse these two things, then you may conclude from the trite observation noted above ("Labour, just like capital, stands at the centre of the creation of the material conditions..."), that we will always need capitalist parasites, private exploiters, because they are an essential part of production (along with land, machinery, raw materials and labour).

But capital, in the first sense of factors of production, does not have to be owned and controlled by a small group of exploiters. Despite the still persisting power of capitalists, very significant capital resources are in state or parastatal hands in our country at this very moment. If you fail to see this, then you are never going to ask how, as a democratic state and as a liberation movement, we are going to deploy this public capital. How do we strengthen this public capital, and weaken the purely profit-driven power of the capitalist class? And what about other forms of ownership of capital - trade union investment companies, or worker co-operatives?

Because of its confused understanding of "capital", the ANC document abandons transformation of existing power realities, and confines our democratic state to a regulatory role, overseeing "labour" and "capital", helping them to co-operate. The new democratic state becomes little more than an overgrown IMSSA (the Independent Mediation Service of SA).

Removing class struggle

To talk of "capital" and "labour" simply as abstract, technical economic categories, as the discussion document tends to do, is to strip these categories of their class character. As if capital and labour were not social forces, shaped by a history of primary accumulation and dispossession, and reproduced in an ongoing way through exploitation and oppression. The depoliticisation of capital and labour obscures the class struggle that underpins the relationship, it obscures the unequal and exploitative relationship that characterises the interaction between the two.

The way in which the paper attempts to think the relationship between the democratic state and "capital" is, as a result of the above, mystifying: "the democratic state must establish a dialectical relationship with private capital as a social partner for development and social progress. The defining element is a working and harmonious, even at times, conflictual relationship between the democratic state and capital. It is a relationship which is necessarily complex and dialectical rather than simple and linear". (para. 5.16). In plain language what does that actually mean?

We are reminded of Marx's comment in Capital that "In its mystical form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to glorify the existing state of things." All of this "non-linear" complexity in the democratic state's "dialectical" relationship with the class of capitalists serves to disguise the fact that there is no problematising of the capitalist class, no interest in its historic origins in the super-exploitation of black workers.

The paper polemically exhorts workers not to be "economistic", not to be "infantile" or "subjectivist". But it hardly prescribes to capitalists at all. The so-called golden triangle turns out to be worse than an illusion about class neutrality. No expectations, no pressures are placed on "capital".

Role of the ANC

Given all of this, it should also hardly be surprising that the document is virtually silent about the ANC as a political movement (in and out of government). When, in paragraph there is passing mention of popular mobilisation, this task is said to reside "within the trade unions" and also within some very vaguely specified "genuinely representative non-governmental popular organisations". The ANC does not feature!

The document occasionally mentions, in general terms, the importance of "participatory democracy" (4.11.1). But then it immediately says: "This is one of the central reasons why the democratic movement must resist the liberal concept of `less government'". Yes, of course, we must resist the liberal concept of "less government", but how does that relate to the question of popular participation, which seemed to be the subject of discussion at this point of the paper? The document raises the question of popular mobilisation, and then, before it can complete the thought, it retreats back into the technocratic state.

The Alliance and mass democratic movement

Not only do the positions of the ANC discussion document lead to a silence on the role of the ANC as a political movement, they lead to an even greater incomprehension about the logic behind a tripartite alliance, and the need for an ANC-aligned broad mass democratic movement. If "regulating" "even-handedly" the relationship between labour and capitalists is the objective of the ANC-led state, then the ANC may as well have an alliance with Business South Africa along with COSATU. The ANC may as well relate to the Chamber of Mines or the Transvaal Agricultural Union as it would to SANCO, or SAAPAWU.

This is the logical outcome of a technocratic, statist approach that removes class struggle and, therefore, transformation from the picture. The inability of the ANC discussion document to deal effectively with these matters is also highlighted by the way in which it conceptualises the ideological and programmatic basis of the ANC and its alliance.

It tells us: "the national liberation movement has, for 70 years, contained within itself both a national democratic and a socialist tendency" (3.4). This suggests that socialists in South Africa are not national democrats, and national democrats cannot be socialist.

By contrast, for instance, the ANC Youth League document usefully asserts that:

"The ANC as a broad national democratic movement incorporates a number of broad ideological trends, namely:

  • a nationalist/bourgeois democratic trend;
  • a socialist trend;
  • the mainstream national democratic trend which tends to incorporate elements of both first two trends." (ANC Youth League, "Organisational and leadership issues in the ANC" para. 10.0)

In other words, the ANC YL document correctly understands that a national democratic perspective unites rather than distinguishes the main ideological currents within the ANC-led movement.

Pragmatism without bounds

At the end of the day, the ANC discussion document has a profoundly defensive, balancing-act conception of the challenges facing us. Stability, for its own sake, starts to become the prime objective.

For instance, it tells us: "The instinct towards economism on the part of the ordinary workers [presumably the tendency of workers to make wage demands] has to be confronted through the positioning of the legitimate demands and expectations of these workers within the wider context of the defence of the democratic gains as represented by the establishment of the democratic state." (para.6.10)

That we need to defend the April 1994 democratic breakthrough is absolutely correct. But, as our SACP 1995 9th Congress said in its slogan, we also have to Advance and Deepen the democratic breakthrough. The national democratic struggle is far from over. Working class struggles, and broader popular struggles, must be harnessed behind this much broader transformational effort.

At the beginning of this critique we said that we agreed with the document that we should avoid "voluntarism" - the illusion that we can simply do as we please. Obviously, there are huge constraints, massive challenges, and difficult choices to be made. But in attacking "voluntarism", the ANC discussion document seems to slide over to the flip-side of the coin - a total pragmatism.

The document quotes (coyly and without direct acknowledgment) Engels' assertion that "freedom is the appreciation of necessity", but forgets that for Engels the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of socialism were a necessity that required appreciation. Engels never gave the maxim the kind of passive, balancing-act meaning that the ANC discussion document imputes to it.

Near the beginning of the document it declares its hand very transparently. It tells us that "the true test of revolutionary practice is to be found in the ability to narrow to the minimum the gap between theory and reality" (para. 1.5). No - that is, and has always been, the slogan of opportunism, of narrow pragmatism and accommodationist politics. The true test of a revolutionary practice lies in the capacity of that practice to transform reality, actually, practically, so that reality actually embodies the revolutionary ideals (equality, justice, liberty, democracy) for which one is struggling.

That we have to be practical is absolutely true. But the kind of passive, regulatory pragmatism advocated by the ANC discussion document, especially in a society beset by huge inequalities, can only serve to legitimise and entrench those inequalities. The ANC discussion document has the title: "The State and Social Transformation". Its true title should have been: "The State and Social Accommodation".

A Year for Consolidating the Socialist Perspectives

SACP programme of action, 1997

At its December 1996 meeting, the Central Committee approved the following Programme of Action (PoA) for the SACP in 1997:

The main theme: 1997, A year for consolidating the socialist perspective

At our 9th national congress in April 1995, the SACP made some very important strategic shifts in our understanding of socialism and the route towards it. These shifts were captured in our slogan: Socialism is the Future, Build it Now! In the past 20 months we have come to appreciate, more and more, the potential and relevance of our 9th Congress perspectives. We need now to consolidate these, both within and beyond our party.

What does consolidation mean?

In the first place it means:

1. Deepening our Understanding of:

1.1 Socialism in the National Democratic Project and of National/Patriotic Democracy in the Socialist Project. This means developing and popularising a wide range of themes, including:

  • the national democratic developmental state
  • *rolling back the market, especially in areas of basic social needs (health, transport, housing)
  • transforming the market
  • alternative forms of ownership - cooperatives, public sector, worker funds
  • democratising management - including the potential of Work Place Forums
  • democratising distribution and consumption - including the strengthening of the new consumer watchdog structures
  • internationalism in the new world situation and the relevance of a South African, southern African and South perspective (ie. relevance of anti-imperialism)

1.2 In the past few years, our Party has more and more come to appreciate the centrality of the struggle against gender oppression within the struggle for democracy and socialism. In the second place, then, consolidating the socialist perspective means deepening our understanding of the need for a Gender perspective in the Class Struggle and of a Class perspective in the Gender Struggle.

All of these themes (highlighted in 1.1 and 1.2) must be used to advance, deepen and defend the NDR project AND they are themes that must be constantly linked to and claimed for the socialist vision.

2. But what are the MEANS for deepening our collective understanding on these questions?

2.1 Clearly, the most important means is for us to engage collectively as a Party in concrete work/campaigns/projects on the ground (see section 5. below).

2.2 Also critical and a major focus of our work must be ongoing PARTY POLITICAL EDUCATION WORK. In 1997 we must devote a great deal of our resources and time to political education. The limited work that we have done on this front over the last 20 months has brought very tangible results. The SACP's capacity to impact on events at all levels has a great deal to do with the work we have put into cadre development - however limited it has been in the past period. In carrying through this work we must self-consciously bear in mind:

  • the need to ensure women comrades are developed.
  • the ANC has declared 1997 the Year of Reaffirming the ANC Cadre - our own political ed work needs to connect with and help strengthen this objective of our broader movement.

2.3 The strategic breakthrough of our 9th Congress needs also, critically, to be consolidated by focused work on Policy Development. In 1997 we must do this in a much more purposeful way. What possibilities are there for commissioning research? We need to interact with progressive NGOs and also with fraternal parties elsewhere in the world.

Areas that have been suggested for policy development include:

  • how do we advance the socialist project in the context of local and provincial governance? There is a fairly rich Communist international experience (India, Italy, etc), and also the beginnings of our own domestic experience in these areas.
  • deepening our understanding of alternative ownership forms - cooperatives, the use of worker funds. In the last few years some very important local cooperative ventures have begun, the SACP should make an effort to study, support and learn from these efforts. The trade unions are beginning, not always with strategic clarity, to mobilise their own access to funds to enter into commercial ventures - again we need to study, support, learn and discuss these processes.

3. Carrying the Socialist Perspective into our Broader Movement

In 1997 the SACP must, much more purposively, propagate our evolving understanding of the socialist project within our alliance and broad movement. We need to do this for a number of reasons, including:

  • a socialist and working class perspective is often absolutely critical to the resolution/clear understanding of concrete transformation challenges.
  • there are suspicions, in some quarters, about some "communist conspiracy", "a second stage" in which we "abolish democracy" and hoist the red flag. Our developing perspective, socialism in and for the NDR, can help non-communist allies to better understand and appreciate what we are doing.

We have already begun, in the context of our bilaterals with COSATU, the ANC national lekgotla, and other inter-organisational contacts to speak about socialism more forthrightly, and to enlighten our comrades about our developing positions. 1997 will present a number of critical forums in which we must develop this work - including the COSATU Sept Congress and the ANC's national conference.

This kind of effort needs, of course, to be replicated at all levels - national to local.

4. A Year for Consolidating SACP self-sufficiency

None of the above will be possible unless we also devote focused attention this year to making our Party self-sufficient in resources.

This work includes:

  • taking the Debit Campaign forward - it is already a considerable success, we need to build on what we have achieved
  • tightening up greatly on our collection of levies from SACP members who are in elected legislative/executive structures.
  • implementing the new membership system
  • audit of our resources

5. Targeted Recruitment and active Engagement

Particularly over the last 6 months, a wide range of senior comrades not in the party, but some of them former senior members of the SACP, have shown a renewed interest in the Party. Not all of them are necessarily wanting to join (or re-join) the Party, but they are, at the very least, looking for ways, formal as well as informal, of interacting more dynamically with us.

A similar phenomenon is perceptible in regard to a number of progressive intellectuals, people in senior government positions, in parliament etc. In some sectors, like the tertiary student sector, there is also a notable "swing" to the Party. While some of this is rooted in negative phenomena (eg. "irritation" with the ANC) we must, as a Party, respond constructively, maturely but also energetically with these developments.

On the one hand we need, at all levels, to develop programmes of targeted recruitment, where we discuss collectively whom we should approach and assign the task specifically, not leaving things to chance. In targeted recruitment we should, in particular, consider two strategic issues:

  • how do we improve the resources and capacities of the Party? how do we assign specific Party tasks to leading cadres that we recruit? (it is not just a question of inserting someone in a branch)
  • how do we address the gender imbalances in our membership? - i.e. we must give focused attention to the recruitment of women comrades.

Recruitment is not always the be-all and end-all. In many cases we can benefit from a close working relationship with individuals who, for one reason or another, prefer not to join the Party as such. We can still benefit greatly from such relationships, provided we are strategic about it.

6. A campaigning Programme of Action

All of the above work must be carried through within the context of a clear, campaigning PoA for 1997. The CC of November 1996 agreed that apart from the socialist themes noted above, we were not speaking of a separate SACP PoA, so much as the active integration of the SACP within the broader alliance campaigns of 1997. (Indeed, the way in which these are being conceptualised by the ANC has already been heavily influenced by the SACP).

The major fronts of campaigning action for 1997 are:

  • people's Masakhane weekends/weeks in which we mobilise forces for local-level developmental work - school renovations, clean-up campaigns, etc.
  • Participatory Budgeting at the local level, ensuring that we convene people's forums to set local level developmental priorities, and that we empower communities to understand the possibilities and constraints of budgets
  • democratic schools governance - the new educational legislation has far-reaching implications for the democratisation of schooling, we must, as a broad alliance, ensure that these possibilities are indeed realised.
  • Community Policing Forums - these are, potentially, important ways of empowering communities to address the crime crisis, and also a means to progressively democratise the police service.
  • Work Place Forums - the new LRA opens up possibilities for the greater democratisation of the management function. We must ensure active and strategic engagement with this possibility.
  • the struggle against evictions in the rural areas.
  • rebuilding an effective Women's Movement, and rebuilding the ANC WL.

All of the above tasks must be seen in the broad context of the SACP's commitment to building a broad popular movement for transformation.

Check Lists

To facilitate the implementation of these goals for 1997, we propose instituting standardised check-lists for different levels of our organisation.

Provincial Check List

PECs and PGCs need, on a regular basis, to check their own progress in terms of the following:

  • each province (perhaps in conjunction with adjoining provinces) must hold an SACP provincial and local Governance conference
  • each province must hold at least one provincial Gender Conference
  • Alliance Consolidation - how is this proceeding? What regular organisational mechanisms are in place? How is the Party popularising our perspectives on socialism within the alliance?
  • what ongoing progress is being achieved within the province in terms of Masakhane/a people-driven RDP, and in the building of a broad popular movement for transformation?
  • each province must hold at least one annual SACP political education school, as well as continuous decentralised political education work
  • targeted recruiting - each province should draw up a very specific plan of recruitment and/or engagement with key comrades in the province with a view to:
    • enhancing the SACP's capacities
    • redressing the gender imbalances in our Party

This plan should then be implemented and evaluated in an ongoing way through the year.

  • administrative and financial consolidation - the implementation of the new membership system, skills upgrading, audits, the debit order campaign, other fund-raising.
  • solidarity with Cuban doctors - while each province should take on a variety of internationalist tasks when and where appropriate, at the very least ongoing solidarity work can (and must) be undertaken at the provincial level with the Cuban doctors in your province. Have you obtained a list of them and of their deployments? Work out a concrete plan of visits, assistance, and the use of these doctors to popularise the Cuban struggle in our own and allied structures.

Branch Check List

SACP branches, throughout 1997, must assess their work in terms of the following basic areas of focus:

1. Local Level Governance- how is your branch engaging actively with

  • the local Community Policing Forums?
  • Schools Governing Bodies, and
  • with the Local Council, particularly in terms of ensuring a Participatory Budget process?

In regard to all of these, we are not saying that there should be an SACP "take-over", but the SACP branch must be looking strategically and assigning tasks to comrades in respect of the above.

2. How is the alliance in your area functioning? What responsibility is your branch taking for local MDM formations?

3. What ongoing political education programmes are you conducting? Are you able to consolidate comrades' understanding of socialism and our perspectives on building socialism now? How is a gender perspective integrated into these programmes?

4. Is your branch assuming responsibility for the sale of SACP publications? How can this work be improved?

5. Targeted recruiting - have you drawn up a list of potential recruits who could strengthen the branch? Who could redress the gender imbalance? Assign this work to specific comrades, and evaluate progress in an ongoing way.

6. Cuban doctors - are you maintaining contact with the Cuban doctors in your area? Are you able to offer them hospitality? What are their needs? Are you able to deploy them in Party and allied structures to popularise the Cuban revolution?

Individual SACP member's Check List

There is no single way of being a communist. In the past, we sometimes exaggerated certain things (theoretical capacity, for instance) and in this way, unintentionally, we made many (those with less education, or women comrades, perhaps) feel unwelcome. It is important that we popularise the idea that there are a thousand different ways to be a Communist.

Communists are also NOT "a breed apart". Narrow minded zealots are, if anything, a danger to our party. We are involved in a long, complex struggle for socialism. We are part and parcel of South African life. This is another dimension to our idea of "building socialism now". Socialism is not a foreign culture, a distant continent, nor another time zone.

Nevertheless, there are certain basic responsibilities that every Communist should fulfil - each in his or her own way, wherever we find ourselves. These basic responsibilities are outlined in the SACP Constitution.

For 1997 we wish to high-light and specify the following basic Individual SACP Member's Check List:

  • to ensure SACP self-sufficiency - every SACP member must take seriously the payment of dues, levies (where appropriate), and the debit order campaign.
  • every SACP member must sell a minimum of 5 copies of each issue of Umsebenzi and a minimum of 5 copies of each issue of the African Communist. Selling Party literature helps raise funds, it develops your Communist profile in your place of work, study, worship and residence. Your feedback helps our publications understand what people on the ground do or do not appreciate in our media.
  • every SACP member must make time to develop other cadres. Again, what we mean by this should not be narrowly confined to political education (although this is very important). Helping develop other cadres also includes basic things like offering to baby-sit for them so they can attend meetings; giving them personal support in times of trouble; helping them to correct bad styles of work in a constructive way, etc. etc.
  • above all, each of us, in our own ways must set a Communist example in our families, places of work and study, and where we live. A Communist example includes, amongst other things, a progressive example on gender, working collectively, and never forgetting our long-term revolutionary objectives.

The visible hand of planning in India: lessons for SA

Vishwas Satgar visited India recently. He is a policy analyst working for Naledi, a COSATU think tank. He is also part of the National Political Education Secretariat in the SACP.

Towards the late eighties and early nineties, any discerning observer of India's economic performance would have identified an escalating foreign debt, acute import intensity and increased capital flight by non-resident Indians--essentially an unmanageable balance of payments situation was in the making. Strangely, decisive policy intervention did not occur. Around July 1991 India had two to three weeks worth of foreign exchange reserves; de facto placing the Indian economy in the throes of a balance of payments crisis. In response the Congress Party Finance Minister, a converted disciple of the "Washington Consensus" (also known as the neo-liberal agenda), used this crisis as an alibi to impose simultaneously an IMF designed macroeconomic stabilisation program and a World Bank structural adjustment program (SAP), on the world's largest poor population. Although embracing a "free market" modernisation vision for India, with textbook economic policies--like privatisation, trade and exchange control liberalisation, fiscal austerity and conservative monetary policies -- the National Planning Commission (NPC), which was responsible for five decades of post independence development, rather anomolously, continued to exist. Actually, its continued existence has rendered crude any juxtaposition of the plan with the market, primarily because it is the "visible hand" of the NPC that is at the forefront of planning and driving "free market" modernisation.

India's development planning institution, the National Planning Commission, has its origins in an economic planning committee set upby the Congress Party during the thirties and which was chaired by Jawaharlal Nehru (subsequently the first Prime Minister of India). Since independence, in 1947, the National Planning Commission has produced nine five year plans. For the first fifteen years of independence the general strategy and institutional design of the Indian development planning model was established. In this regard both Nehru and, the first chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Professor Mahalanobis, were the main architects and hence the development planning model is sometimes referred to as the "NehruMahalanobis" model. By the third five year plan, India had firmly opted for a strategy of import substitution industrialisation (ISI), which was pivoted around three elements. The first being the achievement of self reliant growth through industrial development protected by high tariffs and import restrictions. Secondly, the removal of the capital constraint in a manner that would allow savings to be easily converted into productive investment. Thirdly, industrial development would be guided by an elaborate system of licensing and controls. To a large extent land reform and basic needs amelioration never emerged in a decisive way on the planning agenda.

In terms of the planning process, the commission of experts prepares an approach paper which is sent to the National Development Council, composed of Chief Ministers from the different states and chaired by the Prime Minister, for consideration. It then returns to the NPC for final formulation. All the plan documents have not stipulated policies but have mainly contained macro-economic and sectoral targets and detailed plan outlays for the public sector. Institutionally the National Planning Commission has been very centralised and has had a limited interface with state and union governments. Of late consultation is becoming decentralised, mainly with constitutionally established grass roots participatory institutions, known a Panchayats (very similar to the RDP forums).

Development planning in India has succeeded in ensuring a diversified industrial base, food grain self sufficiency and limited land reform. But, most progressive economists would agree that even the most commonplace development indicators suggest an appalling development record. For instance, the number of people below the poverty line (about 288 million and with the recent SAP it has increased to 355 million) exceed the total population of the Soviet Union, the third largest country in the world. The infant mortality rate in the eighties was 121 per t~ipusand (more than one and half times that of China). Two-thirds of the total population of lrldia does not have access to safe drinking water. About half of the villages do not have a road or a single electricity connection. Nearly one-third of primary school age children are not enrolled in school (in contrast to one third in China) and nearly two-thirds (in contrast to one third in China) of the adult population are illiterate (female literacy lagging far behind male). Also 8 percent of the population owns 48 per cent of the assets. The exception to this is the state of Kerala, which has had a Communist Party led government for over fifteen years, and which according to Amartaya Sen (the world's leading economist on famine) and Jean Dreze (also an economist), has a social development record which not only surpasses that of South Korea but is an example for the rest of India and even the world. In short, using the advantage of hindsight it is apparent the political economy of India's development planning model has not benefited the majority of poor and working people but has merely benefited industrial capital, a bureaucratic elite and rich farmers.

Broadly speaking there are two important lessons that can be distilled out of India's development planning experience. The first lesson can best be framed as a question. Should South Africa establish a statutory development planning commission? Answering this question in the affirmative rests on three essential reasons:

(1) modern liberal states in configuring their institutions of lawmaking and governance have ascribed to a doctrine of a 'separation of powers', primarily to protect the interests of citizens against the abuse and corrupt use of power. However, this doctrine is in serious crisis in the light of the degeneration of electoral political systems. Noberto Bobbio, a leading Western political philosopher, articulates this problem as the inability of political parties to translate electoral mandates into policy. In the South African context this has a resonance given the macroeconomic policy introduced by the Finance Ministry. Basically it deviates from the Reconstruction and Development Program and supplants a vision of people centred modernisation with a vision of "free market" modernisation. We have, in historical terms, moved from oppression under the apartheid regime to the tyranny of the fundamentalist "free marketeers" in the Finance Ministry (which is analogous to the fallacy of 'omniscience' displayed by Soviet central planners). This, however, is symptomatic of a wider problem which is euphemistically referred to as the 'development industry'. This includes other disciples of the Finance Ministry like development consultants, planners and economists who are able to provide ready made technocratic development solutions at exorbitant prices, which have had a draining effect on the fiscus and ultimately the taxpayer. To overcome this situation the economic planning function and capacity within the state has to be democratised and in this sense an independent development planning commission, existing parallel to the state and working in a bottom-up manner, would be necessary.

(2) the policy making system in South Africa is at a critical point of maturity such that it requires more appropriate policy planning and coordination. The kernel of the policy making environment is constituted of Ministries, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) which is a necessary consensus building institution, the Constitutional Court particularly if it attempts to vindicate socio-economic rights, provincial and local government, participatory fora being spawned through the Development Facilitation Act (and which are facilitating participatory budgeting) and workplace forums if they are established by the trade union movement. If a development planning commis.sion exists it could absorb the particular policy interests and demands of various constituencies and institutions and factor these into the broader development plan for South Africa. For example, a scenario that could emerge with a development planning commission is the following: A discussion paper on "Macroeconomic Policy and Basic Needs" is developed by the planning commission after bottom-up consultation and this is then presented to a restructured development chamber at Nedlac, in which the public finance chamber and the development chamber are fused. From here the macroeconomic policy document would proceed to the Cabinet and finally return to the planning commission to be encapsulated in a complete macroeconomic strategy. Also the implementation of the strategy would be annually monitored by the planning commission and a report presented to the restructured development chamber of NEDLAC and the Cabinet.

(3) The intelligent economist, policymaker and development planner has realised the need to transcend the mythology of the "free" and "perfect" market. Lagging behind but eventually making the breakthrough has been economic theory, which has produced a body of knowledge on "market failures", recognising that markets are prone, for instance, to conveying imperfect information, overconcentration, environmental externalities and unemployment. At the same time state intervention has also generated distortions like bureaucratisation, supply side inefficiencies, rent-seeking behaviour and corruption. To find the complimentarity between markets and state intervention, spatially and within the different sectors of South Africa's economy, policies need to be planned by a development planning commission, driven by consensus and consultation.

In the second instance, India's development planning experience, highlights the need to move away from defining the development problematic as a challenge of catching up with the West or rather the "developed" economies. India, like South Africa, over the past few decades attempted to catch up through a strategy of import substitution industrialisation (ISI), bordering on complete autarchy. Apparent in this industrialisation experiment is the failure to ensure wider socio-economic development. Tragically the logic of this kind of modernisation is suggesting an economic trajectory which uses, the diversified industrial base of ISI for an outward economic orientation. In other words export-led industrialisation (ELI) buttressed by 'free market' policies have become the new modernising panacea. This policy orientation has also taken root in South Africa. Without wanting to tackle the limits and weak kneed assumptions of an export led 'take-off' for South Africa, cutting to the bone of the logic of sequencing ISI and ELI reveals a shift from factories to Rooivalk attack helicopters and mega-development projects, like the Maputo Corridor, being the new symbols of progress which coexist incongruously with squatter settlements, illiteracy and widespread poverty. Essentially, the Maputo Corridor project is not only a trickle down growth pole but is a launch pad for South Africa's export led take off which would ensure South Africa no longer blocks the development of it's neighbouring countries through military destabilisation but through economic expansionism.

To argue against sequencing ISI with ELI is not to make a case for the continuity of ISI but rather to articulate the need for what the political economist, Samir Amin, has conceptualised as a strategy of delinking, at least in the short to medium term. Delinking applied in the current set of circumstances prevailing in South Africa would present the development problematic as bridging the gulf between the first and third world within South Africa. Put differently, it would allow political reconciliation to be accompanied by an economic transition that would ensure economic reconciliation. At a political level delinking is about asserting political will, not to compete with the US over a share of the international arms market, but to ensure the autonomy of South Africa's economic transition. Basically, it would have to amount to negotiating a 'hands-off peace with the economic agenda of the "Washington consensus" or as a last resort consideration would have to be given to shutting South Africa's borders to it. At an economic policy level delinking would entail the prioritisation and planning of people centred modernisation but it would not mean the end of trade, rather, trade policy would not be the main stimulus of growth. People centred modernisation entails a planning agenda, with a fixed time horizon, informed by the following key aspects of the RDP: basic needs policies (which includes education, health, housing infrastructure, electricity, sanitation and transport), land redistribution and agrarian reorganisation, and finally the development of and diffusion of home grown intermediate technology, across sectors, which is environmentally friendly and which harmonises with the development needs of small, medium and microenterprises (including co-operatives). In this regard, immense potentialities would stem from the use of the computer chip and solar energy.

The tenacity of a democracy is measured by the extent to which it allows differences of opinion and dissent. Reflecting this notion is the impasse in the debate between 'free market' fundamentalists and left wing debunkers, around the government's macroeconomic strategy. Nonetheless, moving beyond this impasse does not require hard nosed implementation of the macroeconomic strategy, instead there is a need to recognise that no economic policy is irreversible particularly if it is inconsistent with the electoral mandate of the new government. At the same time there is a need to focus the minds of South Africa's nation builders, policy-makers, politicians and most importantly its citizens on constructive solutions that could advance economic reconciliation and a stable democracy. A reflection on India's development planning model has not only revealed its coexistence with the largest (and also the most tenuous) democracy in the world but has also made visible the extent to which most of the post-independence rulers of India used development planning to create a better life for a few more rather than for all. South Africa can avoid this if, for instance, it adopts a strategy of delinking undergirded by a development planning commission which is driven by consensus building, participation and an agenda for people centred modernisation.