May 1996ECONOMIC POLICY - THE STRUGGLE GETS HOT
Two years after the April 1994 political breakthrough in our country the economic debate is sharpening. There has been a tendency to muddle along - some progressive policies have been adopted and implemented, but often without clear strategic perspectives. The time has come for a much clearer and more determined economic course to be set.
The assault on the value of the Rand over the last month should wake us up. The declining international value of the Rand, which strikes at the living standards of South Africans, has been blamed on the ANC alliance - the health of our President, the appointment of an ANC member as Finance Minister, mass action campaigns by COSATU. Every time the progressive movement in our country breathes or blinks, we are told that we are lowering investor confidence in the Rand.
The real reasons behind the assault on the Rand are never clarified. But it is no secret that big business wants to sabotage our infrastructural development RDP programme with an "export-led" growth strategy instead. Could it be a coincidence that every time the Rand slips lower, the export-led strategy is strengthened in practice, and an approach favouring production for domestic and regional social needs is weakened? Could it be that the fall of the Rand is connected to this agenda? It is certainly not the ANC-led alliance that is able to manipulate international currency markets.
Another sign of the sharpening struggle over economic direction has been the recent release of two major economic policy documents.
The first, called "Growth for All", was released by the SA Foundation, representing the top 50 companies in SA. It is the class viewpoint of big capital in SA. Its main concern is the preservation of the power and privilege of big business.
The second document is called "Social Equity and Job Creation" (SEJC), and it is produced by the labour caucus (COSATU, NACTU and FEDSAL) at Nedlac. It presents a very different perspective. Its main argument is that the logic of political democracy must now be carried through into the economic and social sectors of our country. Apartheid was an economic, as well as a political, reality.
The export-led model that the GFA document proposes concentrates much of its fire on government. As far as it is concerned, the role of government is to protect property, fight crime, and to create favourable conditions for the market (that is, the capitalists themselves) to have a free run.
It wants the new democratic government to keep as much as possible out of the economy. It proposes that government spending must be slashed to a minimum and it calls for a "brisk" privatisation programme.
By contrast, the labour document recognises the need for the state to be an active player in the economy. It does not call for an authoritarian, bureaucratic state, but for one capable of playing an effective strategic and developmental role.
The GNU and, particularly, the Reserve Bank have continued to implement very conservative macro-economic policies. The Reserve Bank still defines fighting inflation (rather than poverty and unemployment) as the main priority. As a result we have extremely high interest rates.
The labour document calls for a much more active alignment of macro-economic policy with job creation and redistribution objectives.
The working class and progressive forces in our country need to redouble their efforts. We need to assert our economic perspectives. If we fail to intervene actively, the economic agenda will be set by other forces.
WHY A TRUTH COMMISSION?
The first hearings of the Truth Commission, the experiences recounted by the witnesses there, and their anguish as they remembered those experiences, have overshadowed doubts, and silenced critics.
However, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its work, there were some attempts to question its role. Not surprisingly, right-wing parties and some of the former apartheid securocrats have tried to undermine its work. Inkatha has said it will not cooperate with the Commission. These forces are worried about the unveiling of the truth about the past.
There have also been questions about the Truth Commission from other quarters. Some of these questions have their roots in the legitimate concerns of victims and families of victims. They are worried that the Truth Commission will block their ability to bring criminal charges against human rights abusers. However, other forces are also exploiting these real personal concerns.
AZAPO, a political formation that, in the recent past, never had enough finances to produce a poster, is suddenly bringing costly legal cases to the courts. It has made a number of high-profile challenges to the legitimacy of the Truth Commission. One can only speculate where AZAPO is suddenly getting the funding for this.
Those defending the Truth Commission have spoken a great deal about "catharsis", "nation building", "reconciliation and forgiveness", and the need for "healing".
Commission chairperson, Archbishop Tutu, has given the proceedings a very strong Christian tone. Tutu has every right to his beliefs, but we hope he will remember that the Commission is a public structure in a secular state. Not everyone in our country is a Christian, not everyone is a believer. Indeed, many of us were tortured in apartheid jails by so-called "Christians" because we were communist "unbelievers".
But none of this is the main point.
The SACP welcomes the Truth Commission. We will give it our fullest support. We encourage all South Africans to support the process. While "nation building", and "reconciliation", not to mention the right of victims to know the truth, are very important realities, the Truth Commission is significant in another way, that is rarely mentioned.
Our transition towards democracy has been a negotiated process. Change in our country has not flowed from the absolute defeat of the apartheid security and dirty tricks machinery.
Tens of thousands of individuals associated with these apartheid operations remain within our country, and a large proportion of them are still in the Defence Force and in the Police Services. The Truth Commission is one (not the only) means to ensure that we do not allow these sinister forces to recover their morale, that they do not regroup.
Herein lies the great strategic importance of the Truth Commission process. We must support the Commission, and we must ensure that its strategic purpose is not undermined by confused or simply emotional approaches to its important work.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
THE CASINO INDUSTRY A THREAT FOR KWAZULU-NATAL
Building casinos is seen by the municipality of the Greater Durban area as a way to enhance economic growth, bringing money and jobs to the impoverished population.
In fact, such a policy is full of threats for the future, as a quick look at the casino experience of other countries can show.
In the United States, for example, the building and opening of casinos have been made possible by big interest groups, spending enough money to lobby the politicians ruling the region, and even to gain a social respectability similar to that of tobacco and arms lobbies.
According to the New York Times, quoted in The Natal Mercury of December 19th 1995, "... in Ledyard, Connecticut, gambling interests, which now run casinos in 24 states, have used vast profits ... to fatten the campaign coffers of political candidates and wage multi-million dollar lobbying offensives."
We could take similar examples, in other countries, like newly "westernised" Russia, where the casino industry became a convenient way for local and international crime and drug mafias to launder (that is, reinvest) their dubious revenues.
Everywhere in the world, the wealth brought by the gambling industry has contributed to major corruption scandals, and has done so, not before, but after, gambling became fully legalised. Nowhere is this industry classified as economically productive, and not a single country has been able to build a sound economy on it.
The ruling party in KwaZulu-Natal has made numerous statements in favour of the building of casinos. This party has a free-market ideology, and is trying desperately to bring this province to political autonomy, in order to consolidate its strongholds. It is objectively interested in the mingling of business and politics.
Having now lost its former apartheid paymasters, and having lost its positions elsewhere in the country, the IFP is looking for new paymasters, in order to make sure it will survive.
These paymasters can easily be found by expanding the gambling industry. And that all the more, since, given the fragility of the South African economy (we are not talking about the political fragility of KZN) some foreign investors look for the quickest return on their investment, when they invest in such a country. They will get more quick profits from casinos than from any other business.
A PATRIOTIC BOURGEOISIE?
Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa's impending shift to New Africa Investments Ltd (NAIL) has once more opened up the debate around "black economic empowerment," (writes Jeremy Cronin).
The SACP regrets that this talented political leader will no longer be full time in politics, as he has been over the last critical six years. We assume, however, that he will continue to be politically active, under an ANC political mandate.
NAIL's track record has not been particularly inspiring. Its activities have been largely speculative, money-making ventures. It has not involved itself in any productive investment of note.
In 1995, NAIL chairperson, Dr Ntatho Motlana, associated himself with the positions of big white capital, against COSATU, in the struggle against the Labour Relations Bill. Hopefully, Comrade Ramaphosa's presence will have a positive, transforming impact.
But how, in principle, should we see this kind of deployment of a senior ANC poltical cadre?
It is possible that black capitalists may view the RDP perspectives of our movement with more sympathy than do their white counterparts. But, at the end of the day, there is no guarantee that a black bourgeoisie will be more patriotic than any other bourgeoisie. Generally, the patriotism of the bourgeoisie is reserved for the Kingdom of Profit.
The present reality is that the shift in political power has left white captains of industry with fewer points of access to government. The whiteness of their boardrooms has left them easy targets for anti-capitalist demands. To address these concerns, corporations like Anglo-American are proposing to "unbundle" parts of their empires, and to cut out a slice of the action for an emerging black bourgeoisie. Co-option is clearly the name of their game.
More substantially, black entrepreneurs lack serious financial resources.
The pressures on white business, and the weakness of black entrepreneurs, create possibilities for the democratic movement to advance transformation.
In the past, when we looked at economic transformation, we tended to concentrate on nationalisation. However, history has taught us that, while nationalisation may achieve gains, on its own, it has often resulted in a stifling bureaucracy. Government bureaucrats, in the name of "the people" or "the workers," have often simply replaced former owners.
At the SACP 9th Congress, last year, we argued that there are many entities, not only the state, that need to exercise ownership in a socialised economy. We mentioned parastatals, provincial and municipal government, co-operatives, trade unions, civics and other social collectives.
Clearly, there are progressive possibilities in the trade union bid for a stake in Johnnic. With unions exercising part ownership, investment can be shifted away from speculation and shopping malls towards productive investment in real social needs.
All-round economic and social change requires the active deployment of cadres into many sites of transformational struggle. Whether, in these particular cases, Comrade Ramaphosa and the trade unions will succeed in contributing to real economic transformation remains to be seen. But these are the kinds of challenge that have to be taken up.
IF THE OLYMPICS ARE HELD IN CAPE TOWN
WHO WILL BENEFIT?
Garth Strachan, member of the Central Committee of the SACP, lives in Cape Town. He believes that the bid for the Olympics is an issue that needs much more public discussion and debate.
Cape Town, like all South African cities, is an apartheid city. Racially separated living spaces, huge disparities in housing, income, access to opportunities and the provisiion of services, have given rise to gross inefficiencies and inequities. The challenge facing the city is restructuring: changing the way in which it operates to create development and growth, especially in black areas.
Some of the main principles which should govern this effort are: the prioritisation of mixed land use, the densification of the city (ensuring that available land close to the city and amenities is used), the development of an efficient and affordable public transport system, and due consideration for the ecology.
As well as trying to meet these challenges, Cape Town is gearing itself up to make a bid to host the Olympics in the year 2004. The Olympic Bid Committee has argued that the Olympics is a potential catalyst for development. It is argued that, in addition to the enormous credibility that the Olympics will bring to South Africa, the preparations required to enable the city to bid will boost the economy, create jobs, stimulate tourism, attract investment, and empower black business through subcontracting mechanisms.
There appears to be broad agreement that the Olympics could be a potential catalyst in development. However, there is also agreement that, unless properly managed, hosting an Olympics could create a debt trap for the citizens of the city and the country, which can only be repaid by years of higher rates and taxes.
Business has suggested that it will contribute R67 million to the bid itself, and R288 million to infrastructure, presumably income-generating infrastructure such as hotels. However, it is highly noteworthy that, according to the latest projections, government will have to spend upwards of R7 billion on infrastructure, if the bid is to succeed.The Bid Company has suggested the games will generate R4.25 billion in income, and a profit of R1.3 billion.
We don't want the Olympics, irrespective of the consequences. Precisely because it has happened elsewhere in the world, we must point to the danger that hosting the Olympics will not necessarily facilitate fundamental change. It may further enrich only the business sector, with limited "trickle down" effects to the poor from direct employment in construction and commercial activities associated with the Olympics, neither of which will lead to sustainable development.
There is also a great danger that the construction of new facilities and infrastructure will serve to entrench existing inequalities and divisions within the city, and may not lead to reconstruction and redistribution of expenditure and resources.
For example, building more and wider freeways to venues and Olympic accommodation might provide better access for private motorists, but will not address the crying need for accessible, affordable and safe transport for the working people of the city.
In other words, public sector investment in infrastructure and resources may encourage development in well-established centres, rather than disadvantaged areas, and perpetuate the apartheid city.
For no other reason than the scale of public funds involved, the many and complex issues involved in the Olympic Bid should be made the subject of a national debate.
In addition, every effort should be made to ensure that the planning process is accountable, transparent and inclusive. Rather than providing assurances couched in the vocabulary of development, the Bid Committee must make available detailed proposals, which make possible and, indeed, stimulate, public debate and involvement in the process.
It is imperative that the Olympics do stimulate growth and development for all - not just big profit for big business.
EAST RAND DISTRICT ANNUAL CONGRESS
The East Rand district of the SACP held a very successful fourth Annual Congress in Vosloorus over the week-end of 13th-14th April, writes district secretary Toka Molapo.
This Congress took place at a time when a lot of people thought Communists were an endangered species, especially after the deaths of Comrades Chris Hani and Joe Slovo. The delegates proved sceptics very wrong. They said that history will not be made by individuals, though Comrades Hani and Slovo were two of a series of outstanding revolutionaries of our times, and that the SACP cannot be allowed to be endangered after 75 years of proud and gallant existence. We are here to stay.
We did not, from the outset, expect that the new South Africa would be a picnic or a dinner party. We have to muster all our forces against the forces of neo-colonialism.
It is our historic mission to be actively at the forefront of the struggles and campaigns of the most oppressed and exploited people of our country. We are aware that there is a greater need now to defend the RDP, with all its principles and programmes, because its main objective is to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, to champion the cause of the working class, and deepen and broaden democracy throughout society and the State.
CONCERN ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION
SACP PRESS STATEMENT
This is an extract from a press statement issued by the SACP on 23rd April.
Like COSATU, the SACP is outraged that there are forces that are holding out for the inclusion of a lockout clause in the Constitution. This is virtually unprecedented internationally.
We are also deeply concerned about what kind of content there will be in the Property Clause of the Bill of Rights. Such a clause, if it is needed at all, must not pre-empt economic and social transformation to overcome the legacy of decades of apartheid and centuries of colonialism. It is not as though existing patterns of property ownership, including, but not only, land ownership, is the result of spontaneous, natural, or even free market, processes.
Those who are trying to entrench a lockout clause, and who are insisting on an extensive Property Clause, are, at the end of the day, seeking to entrench powers and privileges derived from an apartheid past.
The tombstone of Joe Slovo will be unveiled at the Avalon Cemetery on Thursday, 4th May 1996, at 4 pm. Please arrive at 3 pm.
HAVEN'T THEY HEARD WE'RE LEGAL?
The Eastern Province Herald of 2nd April 1996 carried the following small ad under the heading, "Employment."
"Organisers and workers needed throughout South Africa, in Campaign against Communism in South Africa. Send SASE, CV and telephone number to CRDP, PO Box 13161, Noordstad 9305. (061) 31417 telephone and fax."
And, according to a report in the Johannesburg Star of 23rd April, a recent visitor claims that the form he had to fill in at the South African Embassy in London asked applicants whether they had ever been members of a communist party. "You wouldn't have thought they knew things had changed in South Africa," the visitor said.
THE SOCIALIST ECONOMIC GIANT OF ASIA
An SACP delegation visited the People's Republic of China in March this year. It was led by Charles Nqakula, General Secretary of the SACP, and Arnold Stofile, Treasurer-General of the ANC. Philip Dexter, MP, SACP provincial secretary in the Western Cape, was part of the delegation, and he reports on it here.
To many observers of the capitalist variety, China is both an irritation and a threat.
A country that has refused to deviate from the socialist path in the post-1989 period would be regarded as problem enough. However, China has been experimenting with the market within the socialist framework. The Chinese people, led by the Communist Party of China, are clearly determined to resist attempts to turn the programme of "reform and opening up" into one of wholesale bourgeois liberalisation. The people are committed to uniting their country. All these facts continue to both irritate and threaten the imperialist countries to the west.
The SACP delegation was left in no doubt that the objective of the Chinese people and the CPC is to build socialism in their country. The economic growth experienced by China is clear evidence that reconstruction and development, if it is to be successful, must be driven by the government and the people. While there is clearly a role for capital in such a process, the responsibility for the success of such an endeavour rests with the masses and a popular government.
No amount of ideological rhetoric by the forces of capital in the rest of the world can counter the jobs, housing, roads, railways, water, and many other services, that have been delivered as a result of the policy of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. Most striking was the manner in which public enterprises have been efficient and profitable engines of development in the economy. Those who would argue for privatisation of state assets should think again, and consider the example of China.
Within this success story, it is easy to identify the critical role of the Communist Party of China. The CPC is a growing party that has developed and implemented the policies that have led to the economic growth of the People's Republic.
The party has had vigorous debates about how to deal with the obvious contradictions that these policies have brought with them: the corruption of certain individuals in society, the creation of some wealthy individuals, and the attempts to turn the reform process into a counter-revolution, for example. The emphasis on ideological development of cadres and on the moral and ethical aspects of socialism are central to resisting these potential deviations.
The history of China includes its own unique experience of colonialism and of imperialist intervention in the affairs of the Chinese people. The territories of China that are soon to be united with the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, are already preparing for the inevitable event.
It is in relation to the island province of Taiwan that most problems are being experienced, largely due to the continued meddling of the aggressive capitalist countries in this sensitive domestic issue. What is striking is the patience of the Chinese government and the CPC on this issue. A country which can boast a military force such as the People's Liberation Army could easily be tempted to find a military solution; but the People's Republic of China has engaged in continuous dialogue and debate to try to resolve the matter.
Such a commitment to peace should be welcomed and supported by progressive forces the world over. All recognition of Taiwan should be ended, as it will only serve as a form of encouragement to those who seek independence for this province of China.
China is a vast country with an enormous population, diverse cultures, religious, and huge regional differences. What we saw of China, a fleeting glimpse, was an inspiration. There can be no doubt that the challenges and contradictions that the Chinese people, led by the CPC, will face, will be full of difficulties and unenviable choices. But South Africans in general, and South African socialists and communists in particular, can benefit immensely from Chinese experiences.
We must build greater links of friendship between China and South Africa, to ensure that this takes place.
WORKERS' PARTY OF KOREA VISIT
Two representatives from the Workers' Party of Korea paid a fraternal visit to South Africa, from the 17th-21st May.
In Johannesburg, they met with the SACP Secretariat, and with Walter Sisulu, former Secretary-General of the ANC.
In Cape Town, they met Raymond Suttner MP, in his capacity as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as other MPs from the ANC and SACP.