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May 1998    

Prepare for the 10th Congress!

Through May and June all SACP structures are being mobilised to ensure that our Party prepares for the 10th National Congress. The Congress will convene from July 1 to 5 in Johannesburg.

With four years of experience since the April 1994 democratic breakthrough behind us, and with one year to go before the 1999 elections, the 10th Congress comes at an important moment. The SACP continues to see itself as a vanguard party in the context of a broader national liberation movement. A critical component of the vanguard role we seek to play is to develop and propagate clear, collective strategic perspectives, not just for our Party, but for our movement.

The need for strategic clarity in our present situation is more pressing than ever before. How does the new, democratic South Africa connect to wider international realities? What is the meaning of "globalisation"? What is our assessment of the past four years? How do we steer between the twin dangers of demoralisation and complacency? These are the kinds of critical strategic questions that the Central Committee's draft programme discussion documents seek to answer.

Where is the South African transition heading, and what is the greatest threat to our national democratic revolution? The draft programme chapter that looks at this question asserts that: "the SACP believes that the greatest threat to the NDR comes not from without, but from within, or rather from the strategic impact upon our alliance exerted by forces fundamentally hostile to the NDR."

The past eight years, since the SACP's unbanning, have been complex years for communists in South Africa, and around the world. What does it mean in the 1990s to be a communist? What lessons must be drawn from the socialist struggles of our century? The SACP in the 1990s has refused opportunism of the right (quietly abandoning our traditions and our legacy), and dogmatism of the left (pretending there are no problems). The SACP has sought to be a collective formation capable of waging struggle for the renewal of socialism in our country, and internationally.

The discussion of the CC draft documents, and the chapter on "Our Marxism", in particular, provide an opportunity for SACP cadres to take stock of the progress we have made in the collective struggle for socialist renewal. Do we have a common understanding of the path we have covered in the last eight years? The Congress and the preparations for it must help us to test this question, and to forge a common perspective.

The SACP Central Committee has charged all provincial structures to ensure that regional and provincial workshops convene before July. An important task of such workshops will be to discuss, debate and propose amendments to the Party's draft programme chapters. All CC members have been deployed to provinces to facilitate this process. It is important that the nearly 500 branch-level delegates that will attend the 10th Congress are effectively prepared and mandated for the plenary and commission discussions.

While our potential strategic and theoretical contribution to our movement is of critical importance, the discussion and resolutions that emerge from Congress must also be directed to practical, organisational work. Are our present organisational structures the most adequate for the strategic objectives we are setting ourselves as a Party? And what is the state of organisational health in our alliance partners - especially the ANC?

As SACP members we are particularly concerned about the organisational state of health of the leading formation of the alliance. It is a concern that we share with thousands of non-communist ANC members. While our political opponents are incapable of mounting any serious threat to the ANC's huge majority, the levels of intra-organisational factionalism, and the loss of connection with our mass base are serious concerns.

In preparing for the SACP congress these issues must also be discussed, and practical resolutions taken. A key resolution of our 10th Congress will surely be a call on all Party members to play an active, non-sectarian role in rebuilding the ANC. Party members need to be factor for cohesion, unity and non-sectarian discipline within our broader movement.

Lessons from the Meiring fiasco

As a liberation movement we must take serious note of the Meiring fiasco. This was one important message from the Central Committee of the SACP, meeting over the weekend of 9-10 May.

General George Meiring , a former apartheid-era general, and then head of the new SANDF, submitted a disinformation dossier, compiled by elements in Military Intelligence, directly to President Nelson Mandela. In doing this, Meiring completely bypassed the Ministry of Defence. The contents of the dossier were at once laughable and extremely grave.

The dossier, based supposedly on information supplied by one single informant, alleged a whole cock-and-bull story about a planned "left-wing" plot against the government. The plot was being launched, it was claimed, from within the SANDF itself by former leading members of MK. As it happened, the key "conspirators" are all those senior black officers earmarked for promotion in the SANDF - promotions that will displace former white apartheid officers in the army.

It is easy to laugh at the crudeness of this disinformation. But imagine if we were living in a country in which the government was paranoid. In the 1930s the Red Army in the Soviet Union was torn apart by a series of purges directed against its leading personnel. It was only years later that it was learnt that the purges against Red Army officers were sparked by disinformation fed to Stalin's government by German Nazi intelligence networks.

In the end, our government handled the matter with maturity and also sensitivity. But Meiring and his followers must not now mistake sensitivity and generosity for a lack of willingness to deal decisively with attempts to destabilise our democracy.

In its statement the Central Committee noted that "the act of supplying disinformation to a President of a country would, in most societies, be considered treasonable...Meiring must count himself luck to have been handled so gently."

This cock-and-bull conspiracy story is, of course, one in a series of similar disinformation stories that have been around in the 1990s. In 1991 there was the Vula "conspiracy" story - the SACP was supposedly seeking to destabilise negotiations. In 1993, shortly before his assassination, comrade Chris Hani was supposed to have launched an army of "dissidents" in Zimbabwe. In 1994, on the eve of elections, Vula was supposed to have been resurrected as Operation Sunrise, "an SACP insurrectionary plan to destabilise elections". In 1996, there was a disinformation docket which tried to claim that elements within the ANC were behind Hani's assassination.

The objective of all of these stories is to divide our alliance and our movement, to stir up emotions in the ultra-right, and to weaken our capacity to push ahead with a unified struggle for transformation.

All of these acts of disinformation have had their origin in ex-Military Intelligence networks. As the Meiring event underlines, some of these elements are still active in the new SANDF intelligence structures. The SACP welcomes Meiring's resignation from the SANDF and government's initiative to conduct a thorough-going clean-up of intelligence structures.  

Left Laugh

The following is the transcript of an actual radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the Eastern Canadian coast, released by the US Chief of Naval Operations after public requests. It is a timely reminder of the arrogance (and stupidity) of US imperialism.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision

Canadians: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision

Americans: This is the Captain of a US navy ship. I say again, divert your course

Canadians: No, I say again, you divert your course

Americans: This is the Aircraft Carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied by three Destroyers, three Cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees North, that's one five degrees North, or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship

Canadians: We are a lighthouse. Your call!



Conflict  Intensifies

The effects of the IMF-sponsored programme of 'reform' for Indonesia have intensified social and political conflict in this country of 200 million people. Over the last several weeks, there have been scores of mass demonstrations and riots by student groups and workers, sparked by the implementation of the so-called 'reforms'. Most recently, the government announced a 70% hike in petrol prices, following further devaluation of the Indonesian currency and a multi-billion dollar bailout of failing Indonesian banks.

In response, the powerful Indonesian armed forces (ABRI) have launched a crack down, publicly warning that all demonstrations against the Suharto regime will be dealt with "firmly". True to their word, the ABRI has shot and killed several demonstrators over the last few weeks. Several hundred students and workers have been wounded. However, the ABRI has also embarked on a campaign of arrest and torture, with many activists having 'disappeared' over the last several weeks.

According to reports from the chair of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, over 50 activists have 'disappeared' without trace. Not surprisingly, ABRI Generals have flatly denied this, telling the families of the disappeared that "perhaps the people who have disappeared are drinking coffee at a café and chatting", or maybe they are "wandering around in the jungle".

Indeed, the Suharto regime is increasingly relying on the brutal ABRI forces to survive. As many internationalists are well aware, the ABRI has, in the past, been responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of Indonesian Communists as well as the continuing genocide against the people of East Timor. The latest crackdown on opposition comes in the wake of collaboration between the ABRI and the United States military (who have long had a close 'working' relationship). Reports from sources inside Indonesia indicate that, since the crisis erupted late last year, US military personnel have conducted numerous high-level meetings with ABRI Generals and have provided a wide range of training and weapons to elite forces in the ABRI. US military participants have included Green Berets, Air Force commandos and Marines.

It is clear that the intensified conflict is being used by the United States and the IMF to push Indonesia from its 'crony-style' capitalism (under the direction of the Suharto family), to a harsher, multinational and corporate variety based on submission to global markets. Likewise, the conflict provides these same forces with an excuse to crackdown on opposition and strengthen the capacity of the ABRI to 'stabilise' the situation for capital to pursue their business.

As the socio-economic situation for the vast majority of Indonesians worsens the conflict will, no doubt, further intensify.  


Struggle against Tribalism in Northern Province

JUSTICE PIITSO, Secretary of the SACP Sekhukhune-Central District details some of the political and organisational challenges facing progressive forces in his area, in response to the so-called 'Sekhukhune lobby group'.

As part of the movement's attempts to implement our political vision of transformation, we in the Northern Province have increasingly been forced to confront tribalist and regionalist tendencies that are gradually manifesting themselves as part of an attempt to undermine the integrity of the ANC. Such tendencies are reactionary (in a class context), because the political agenda of the ANC as a national liberation movement is one of building a united, non-sexist, non-racial and non-tribalist democratic state.

The agenda of the so-called Sekhukhune lobby group (predominately made up by businessmen and ex-bantustan officials) is contrary to the political objectives of our movement. While the movement's goal is the passage of political and economic power from the old apartheid elites and institutions to the historically marginalised majority, the goal of the so-called 'lobby group' is limited to group advancement and self-enrichment. As part of this goal, the group is pushing the people of the Sekhukhune area to identify themselves as grandchildren of King Kgosikgolo Sekhukhune, in an attempt to separate them from other people on the basis of personal interest and narrow ethnicity.

My own understanding is that the political vision of King Sekhukhune was not one of advancing the narrow interests of ethnicity, but of advancing the needs of the broad majority, particularly the rural poor. He was one of the first gallant fighters on this continent who attempted to address key social and political issues facing the entire society. Likewise, he courageously opposed the narrow and oppressive interests of the imperialists and capitalists of his time. Sekhukhune, as a visionary, interacted with leaders and people across tribal lines. In contrast, the so-called 'lobby group' is now attempting to advance their selfish ambitions on the basis of humiliating the legacy of King Sekhukhune.

Some elements of the group were loyal right-hand men and women of the discredited bantustan administration. Thus, it comes as no surprise that they are now launching an offensive to smear the movement and its leaders in our area. It is, as part of this offensive, that the group is becoming increasingly ruthless as they attempt to consolidate their personal interests before that of the movement. It is this group that is leading the attack against our comrades who have been deployed by the ANC to lead our provincial government. Their counter-revolutionary efforts have already impacted adversely on the delivery of basic services and the needs of the predominately rural province. They have also tarnished the image of the ANC.

Our revolutionary task is to advance, deepen and defend the historic breakthrough as a means of curbing these tendencies. We must ensure that we mobilise to demobilise this kind of gangsterism and in the process, restore the dignity of the ANC as a broad liberation movement.

Quote of the Month

I have long been of the opinion that if work were such a splendid thing the rich would have kept more of it for themselves. (Bruce Grocott)

Red Star and Thumbs Down 

3 Thumbs Down - to SASOL and its public sector overseers for embarking on an ill-conceived project to build a gas-to-liquid fuels plant in Nigeria. In a development that reminds Red Star of the pre-1994 days, SASOL and the US oil giant Chevron, have agreed to begin design and engineering studies on the proposed 20 000 barrels per day plant. Not only does such a move fly in the face of popularly-based South African and international calls for the isolation and condemnation of the brutal Abacha regime, but it sends all the wrong signals. There is absolutely no justification for undertaking such a project, when it is clear that the plant will only benefit Abacha and his military henchmen in their ongoing rule of terror, not to mention the serious environmental concerns commonly associated with such endeavours. It would seem as though the executives at SASOL and the Department of Foreign Affairs need a timely reminder of the Constitutional principles underlying foreign policy.

2 Thumbs Down - to Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, for his increasing tendency to sacrifice the needs of the Russian people on the altar of his own political schizophrenia. In recent months Yeltsin has unilaterally announced the dismissal of the entire government, appointed an unknown yes-man as Prime Minister and signed countless decrees to facilitate the interests of international capital. At the same time he has made empty promises to deal with the massive back-log in unpaid wages to workers, to upgrade the devastated social services in the country and to democratise the operations of his own office. We share the feelings of an increasing majority of Russians - Yeltsin must go.

- to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and its members, for standing up to the neo-liberal, union-busting onslaught of the Australian government and its corporate buddies, and winning a significant victory for workers. The MUA's fightback against the summary firing of 2000 members has galvanised a wide range of progressive social forces throughout Australia in opposition to the sado-capitalism being forced on workers and the poor. The MUA won the subsequent court battles for reinstatement, thus striking a blow for workers rights. Just as importantly, the battle, and victory, signals to workers movements world-wide that anti-capitalist struggle, rather than corporatist accomodation, is both possible and necessary. Viva the MUA!!

- to the National Sports Council (NSC) and all those forces, including COSATU, that compelled the resignation of Louis Luyt as chairman of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU). Luyt represents those elements in our society who are determined to abuse our new constitutional reality to preserve key institutions as bastions of racial power and privilege. By forcing Luyt's long-overdue resignation, these forces have put another nail in the coffin of the apartheid-era old guard and gone a long way in liberating one of our national sports from the clutches of reaction.

Provincial Focus


The SACP in Gauteng held its 6th Provincial Congress from 18-19th April in Johannesburg. The Congress was marked by lively debate and participation from delegates. Below is the Congress Declaration, adopted by delegates as a reflection of the mood and content of the Congress.

We the delegates of the 6th Congress of the South African Communist Party in Gauteng Province, held on the 18th and 19th of April, at Johannesburg, declare for our province and the country:

1. This Congress, attended by 140 delegates, observers and guests, including international guests representing Cuba, Mozambique, Britain and Germany, is a key moment in the history of our province. The 98 voting delegates represent thousands of communists in Gauteng.

2. This Congress serves as preparation for the 10th National Congress of the SACP, which will assert our conviction that the socialism is genuine people's power.

3. This Congress takes place in the context of four and a half years of government. In this regard we acknowledge the failure of the Alliance to become the mainstay of driving transformation in the Province.

4. This Congress however notes that key advances have been made over the past four years with regard to both governance and improvement in key aspects of delivery.

5. This Congress notes the unfavourable circumstances both nationally and internationally. In particular we note the impact of the collapse of the former socialist bloc and the rise of neo-liberal ideology, which has the prospect of limiting possibilities for thorough-going transformation.

6. This Congress acknowledges that the process of transformation, occasioned by the 1994 breakthrough, has also catalysed a web of counter-revolutionary tendencies. At the same time, reactionary elements of the state, specifically in the army and the police, remain a threat - and these are not the only ones.

7. Most seriously, but not unexpectedly, this Congress notes the threats that have been brought to the progressive movement: the possibility of a timid political agenda on the one side, and voluntarism on the other, are both threats.

8. Furthermore, this Congress observes that the possibilities of careerism, bureaucratism, disdain for mass contact, over-theorisation on one hand, and a fear of theory on the other hand, can also derail transformative possibilities.

9. As the SACP:

  • We call upon the Youth. You belong to the future. The future is Socialism.
  • We call upon the Women - in the factories, in the huts and in the shacks. Capitalism is incapable of resolving your problems. In addressing your problems, your oppression at home, the Party is your shield.
  • We call upon the Workers, who produced Moses Kotane and Chris Hani, who produce the wealth of the country, which they are denied. We say Socialism is your future. The Party is your home.

10. This Congress is convinced that the Alliance remains the strategic locomotive for transformation - that the unity of the Alliance remains the most important challenge for all revolutionaries in our country, communists and non-communists alike.

11. The upcoming elections will be crucial in consolidating the National Democratic Revolution. All communists will be centrally involved and at the helm of the elections campaign for a decisive ANC victory.

For the transformation to sharpen its radical edge, the SACP will continue to be the ideological spear of the revolution. This does not mean we will reduce the Party to a debating society. It is our task as communists to provide leadership in the popular organs of civil society, to mobilise society and to implement practical programmes to transform society. The Party must be both ideologically sharp and have a mass base with political muscle. The Party will seek to hegemonise and to accumulate around itself social forces such as religious groupings, the movement of homeless and landless people, co-operative movements, hawkers, the organised working class, the unemployed and the rural poor. Finally as the South African Communist Party in Gauteng, we look to the future, confident and strong in our resolve that socialism is the only answer for this province, for this country, and for the world. All energies must be focused to achieve this objective now.

A new Provincial Executive Committee was elected, as follows:

Trevor Fowler (Provincial Secretary); Bob Mabaso (Provincial Chairperson);
Nomvula Mokonyane (Treasurer); Emmanuel Kgomo (Deputy Secretary); Charley Lewis (Deputy Chairperson)

Additional members elected were:

Sibusiso Buthelezi, Trish Hanekom, Themba Kgasi, Obed Maila, Pule Malefane, Amos Masondo, Dale McKinley, Dan Mohapi, Jabu Moleketi, Sisa Njikelana, Hope Papo, Norman Ralegoma, Vishwas Satgar, Langa Zita.


Debt 'RELIEF' isn't what appears to be

Last month, the World Bank and the IMF announced that they were providing a "debt-service relief package" to Mozambique in order to "reduce the external debt burden, free budgetary resources and allow Mozambique to broaden the scope of its development effort." Many have hailed this decision as a positive step. On closer inspection though, it is clear that the 'cancelled debt' only applies to that debt which would never have been paid, and debt service payments will actually increase.

Calls for the cancellation of the debt of developing countries has gathered pace over the last year as the effects of debt-servicing, coupled to the implementation of structural adjustment programmes (SAPS), has crippled the capacity of governments to provide adequate social services. One of the most highly indebted countries, Mozambique, has received particular attention due to its massive debt, accumulated as a result of the harsh SAPS implemented since the devastation of the Mozambique's civil war.

When the World Bank and IMF made their 'debt-relief' announcement, the general response was to welcome the move since it would reduce the debt of one of the poorest countries in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Debt service will increase, not decrease. Under the 'Heavily Indebted Poor Countries' (HIPC) programme of the World Bank and IMF, Mozambique will use 20 percent of export earnings to pay the principal and interest on the remaining debt. By 1999, exports will exceed $500 million per year. Exact projections have not been published yet, but the 20 per cent figure means Mozambique must pay at least $100 million per year. The Mozambique News Agency reports that debt service in recent years has been:

    1995 - $66.3 million
    1996 - $71.5 million
    1997 - $80.3 million
    1998 - $86 million predicted

This means Mozambique still must divert essential funds away from health and education to repay debts. The Ministry of Education has already deferred universal primary education until 2010, and a recently leaked Ministry of Education report put the blame entirely on lack of money due to the need to meet debt service payments.

Minister of Finance and Planning Tomaz Salomao, is quoted in the World Bank's own press release on the programme as saying: "Considering that Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, and one devastated by war, it would have been our desire to receive total debt forgiveness... (but) the HIPC deal (is) what is possible now".

The World Bank and IMF have billed their HIPC Initiative as an "exit" strategy - as the end to debt negotiations. But Salomao's comments make clear this is not true in the case of Mozambique. The World Bank/IMF decision is just that -- it is a decision that debt will be cancelled in June 1999. Cancellation will only take place if Mozambique continues to follow the much-criticised structural adjustment programme. This includes the partial privatisation of profitable port and railway facilities.

Much of this article comes from the analysis of JOSEPH HANLON, who works with the anti-debt organisation, JUBILEE 2000

News Breifs

Mass Action and Electrol Boycott Puts Nigerian Dictator on Defensive

General Sani Abacha, Nigeria's ruthless military dictator has been handed a severe setback in his plans to retain political control of Africa's most populous nation. After years of mis-rule, including massive suppression of basic human rights, banning of political opposition and large-scale environmental destruction, Abacha announced several months ago that new national assembly elections would take place in late April, and that he would be running as a Presidential candidate in national elections scheduled for August. In response, all major opposition groups called for Nigerians to take to the streets in early April as a show of popular rejection of Abacha's "democratic" charade. Over one million people demonstrated in Lagos alone. This was followed by a successful opposition boycott of the national assembly elections, held on 25th April, in which an estimated 80% of eligible voters shunned the rigged polls. The people have spoken!

Zambian Government 's Bullying Tactics Backfire

As part of its ongoing attempts to crush all political opposition, both in and outside Zambia, the government of President Frederick Chiluba, recently despatched Minister without Portfolio, Michael Sata, on a trip to South Africa. Before arriving in Johannesburg, Sata had stopped in Namibia, where he publicly threatened exiled opposition activists, stating that "we know who you are and we know where you are". After less than a day in Johannesburg Sata, whose main target was the South African-based exiled General Secretary of the opposition Zambian Democratic Congress, Azwell Banda, was publicly exposed by the SACP. Sata quietly slipped out of the country the next day to be met by a front page headline in the Zambian Post entitled "Sata hounded out of Johannesburg by SACP". Chiluba and his cronies may want to think twice about how they deal with progressive forces in the region and, even more to the point, in their own country.


Strategies for Socialism

In this first installment of Umsebenzi's efforts to encourage debate around key issues for our Party, LANGA ZITA puts forward an argument focusing on socialist strategies.

The challenge of "socialising reforms"

Gone with the model of Eastern European socialism is the notion of a big bang approach to the achievement of socialism. The history of capitalist societies over the past 150 years offers little sustenance for the faith in an "inevitable" collapse of that system, preceded by an equally inevitable crisis. I want to present the notion of a long but systematic supercession and transformation of capitalism, in the same way that capitalism evolved from the womb of feudalism, as the preferred strategic option. Yet, whilst recognising these historical trends, it is not to say that change cannot occur in certain extraordinary circumstances - in a concentrated form ("revolution"). Whilst these extraordinary forms of transition can occur, I would argue that they should not be the preffeed option for advancing to society a programme for fundamental socialist transformation. The content of a mass revolutionary upsurge should have distinct objectives depending on the specific context of the country in which it unfolds. If it is in a undemocratic society, its objective should be simultaneously to pursue the social agenda, as well the establishment of rule of law ( i.e., freedom of choice, multi party political contestation that could both be in the form of representative as well as popular and participative democracy), with the emphasis on rule of law. Rule of law in which people can differ and can proclaim various programmes, including a programme in which people can (in the case of a post capitalist society) argue and mobilise democratically for a return to capitalism, must be guaranteed. If these civil liberties are not guaranteed it is easy for a revolutionary movement to end up as a dictatorial force, capable of committing serious crimes against the people. I make these particular emphases because a socialism that works and is thoroughly democratic is still to be achieved, and its pursuit cannot but be an experiment. Thus in proceeding we should create an enviroment, a culture and institutions that can make it possible for the people to change the government in case the experiment goes wrong, or to elect another socialist government, if they still want to continue with the experiment. The only context in which such a sustainable and democratic social experimentation can proceed, which can avoid unimaginable disasters, that humanity has developed is with all its limitation is representative democracy - with a rule of law.

In the context of a country with deep representative democratic roots, popular upsurges should also rethink the pursuit of classical dual power - in which at that particular moment a socialist popular "soviet" government stands parallel, and in opposition to, the representative parliamentary system. Such moments risk a possible cancellation of the exercise of the rule of law and can also lead to the rise of a political monster. In thinking about the role of the masses in a representative democratic context, we need to rethink the concept the change in the balance of forces that can lead to a new and socialist power equation in society. We should think of the change in the balance of power as reconcilable with the maintenance of the rule of law. We should see these shifts as a result of multiple change involving changes in the orientation of the state, in the legislature, but principally due to the pressures of a mobilised and active people. The impact of this mobilisation should not be seen as leading to a momentous stand off between a reactionary state on the one hand, and mobilised people on the other. Essentially we should see mobilisation as capable of changing the relations within the state and capable of restructuring the relationship between the state and the people (in organised formations) and ultimately capable of changing the very character of the state.

Building Socialism Now!

The SACP specifically proclaims that "Socialism is the future: Build it now " to underscore the fact that the socialist transformation should not be postponed because we are living in a capitalist reality. Therefore, in our case, I am arguing for socialising reforms (structural changes to social relations) that are socialist in character (i.e., advance popular control of all aspects of society). In particular, we argue for socialised state control of the economy. This should proceed in such a way that the balance of forces changes immediately but also over time in favour of the workers and popular forces, in the economy and in society broadly.

The Left and state power

State power remains a critical arena for the achievement of socialist transformation. However, we must not interpret this to mean the endorsement of a narrow statism, which is essentially elitist and undemocratic. Moreover, the tendency to turn the conceptual distinction between state and civil society into a complete and practical divide is erroneous. The fields in which social relations are established (i.e., civil society) and public power (i.e., in the state) is exercised, constantly overlap. In conceiving our exercise of state power, we should at all times ensure a dialectical interplay with popular and other social forces at play in civil society - hence the concept of the socialisation and absorption of the state by popular forces in civil society. By this we mean that peoples organs, such as trade unions, student organisations, progressive religious alliances and hawkers association must all be mobilised to bring their views as well as their social weight on the operation of the state. This could encourage, at first, a process where the popular forces can co-govern with the democratic state and, over time, the state could, as a result of this popular weight, be absorbed by it. Thus the state would not even contemplate movement without this constant sanction from the people.

Implications of underdevelopment to a Left project

In the South African case the socialist project has to take regard of the level of development of the forces of production in our society. Therefore, in contrast to the developed world where the challenge is to change the character of social relations, we still have to develop to some degree, the productive forces in our country. This does not imply an endorsement of the argument that we should pursue growth first, at all costs - the standard trickle-down theory of development. For us growth means the accumulation of the forces of production, not only profiting from those forces. Because of this, accumulation not only resides in the forces of individual entrepreneurs but can also be pursued by the state and collective. The central point is that we are challenged by the twin process of accumulating wealth (on a national scale) and simultaneously transforming and socialising the accumulation and consumption of that wealth.

Umsebenzi Discussion

The 1998 Budget - Gear(ing) up for more job losses

The SACP's position on the 1998 budget was far too timid, argues DALE T. McKINLEY.

Even before Trevor Manuel unveiled the 1998 budget in March, there was ample evidence to suggest that it would fall comfortably within the macro-economic framework as laid out in GEAR. Like the adoption of GEAR, the 1998 budget process was a top-down affair and despite inflation-related increases in social spending, the budget basics remain faithful to GEAR's neo-liberal agenda. Most importantly, the failure of the 1998 budget to provide a coherent strategy for implementing the most central of government tasks - the creation of jobs- has serious implications for our Party's strategy and tactics.

When the 1997 budget was unveiled, much of the South African left adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Besides being the first full budget to be 'untainted' by the old apartheid order, it was also the first budget within the framework of GEAR. Despite high hopes in some quarters of the movement that the 1997 budget represented the long-awaited redistribution of public resources, it was not long before it became clear that the 'redistribution' was itself secondary to the dictates of GEAR's sado-monetarist growth model.

The 1998 budget serves to confirm this trend. To begin with, the budgeting process itself was run by the Finance Department as if the national budget was its own private property. The stated desire for 'public debate and input' was simply ignored, and the role of Parliament in overseeing and amending the budget process was approached in an ad-hoc manner. Indeed, COSATU publicly announced that it would not participate in the budget hearings due to the lack of seriousness on the part of government to "meaningful participation" in the budget process.

However, it is questionable whether or not a more participatory process would have fundamentally altered the content of the budget. The commitment of government to GEAR's deficit reduction formula (3.5% of gross domestic product - GDP) has made it virtually impossible for serious compromise over spending patterns, job creation strategies and redistribution of wealth. This formula, to be implemented through massive public sector lay-offs and cuts in certain areas of social spending, is complemented by providing increased relief to the capitalist class in the form of tax relief, subsidisation of corporate investment and the further relaxation of exchange controls.

Within this framework, the inflation-related increases given to such social services as housing, education and health, and the once-off levy on the demutualisation of Sanlam and Old Mutual, are more than off-set by the longer-term effects of the budget's 'hands-off' approach to the existing distribution of wealth and monetarist-driven 'downsizing' of the public sector.

How are we to respond to the 84% cut in the budget of the National Public Works programmes, the mainstay of any public-sector led, job creation strategy? Last year our Party, fully informed by the SACP Strategic Perspectives, made a clear call for:

  • the popularisation and empowerment of community-based public works programmes
  • the implementation of labour intensive public works projects (work brigades)
  • the provision, through the public works programmes, of waged employment to the most vulnerable sectors of communities
  • the establishment of a public works strategic policy unit

And yet when the budget was unveiled, a Party press statement was released which, while noting displeasure at "self-imposed and excessively restrictive" constraints, stated that the budget "represents a generally constructive and well-balanced approach to meeting the social delivery needs of our society". Our analysis and our political choices need to be much clearer.

The bottom line is that the budget relies completely on 'sending the right signals' to international and domestic capital in order to hopefully spur growth, create the (private) jobs to replace the ones it is shedding and thus provide increased income to government. It is a classic trickle-down budget and those who want to pretend otherwise are simply being naïve, or worse, dishonest.

Our Party should pay close attention to the character of responses to the 1998 budget coming from the capitalist camp. When the South African Chamber of Commerce publicly states that "we could not have hoped for a better budget", we should know that something is seriously wrong. Likewise, we cannot shrug off the clear failure of GEAR-inspired budgets to: maintain any kind of balance between sustained growth and redistribution; generate sizeable increases in domestic fixed investment rather than massive capital outflows; and stem the speculative and short-term foreign capital inflows that do little to generate either jobs or productive use of capital.

We need to display both political maturity and courage in confronting the framework and practical effects of the 1998 budget, but confront it we must.