The Global Crisis of Capitalism The Failure of neo-liberal Prescriptions
Playing politics with the Unemployed
Tribute to Comrade Ntela Sikhosana
In the name of Workplace Restructuring
Recipiets of the Moses Kotane Award
Political Education - Understanding Imperialism
Struggling against the Banks
Left Laugh - Business Wisdom
Phantsi ne Privatisation
The 4th Congress of the SA Deomcratic Teacher's Union (SADTU)
SACP Secretariat Statement on the Lesotho Situation
SACP Statement Condemning attacks on Non-Nationals
Fidel Castro - "Great Crisies always deliver great solutions"
The failure of neo-liberal prescriptions
The current crisis of capitalism and the parallel possibilities for our struggle for socialism is the main theme of this special double issue of Umsebenzi. SACP General Secretary, BLADE NZIMANDE outlines the nature of the crisis and the necessary steps needed to spearhead the transformation of the global economy towards socialism.
The bourgeoisie and their spokespersons have been grappling with the current global crisis that began in the financial markets and have come to some rather unremarkable conclusions: that
- the excessive deregulation of financial markets that has been championed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in particular is the source of much of the volatility in the markets
- the huge disparities between developed and developing countries is distorting the global market;
- privatisation has not brought the growth, efficiency and cost effectiveness it was supposed to, and
- most amusingly, the current collapse is not a good thing!
Of course these "experts" are less vocal about the fact that not so long ago they and the bourgeois economists of the neo-liberal persuasion were arguing that globalisation was a success. They were also convinced that the less the market is interfered with the better it would perform and ensure growth and development the world over.
The reality is the exact opposite of course. Not only has the global bubble burst, but in the decades since the ascendance of the prescriptions of neo-liberalism the living standards of the majority of the world's population has declined considerably. The gap between rich and poor, high and low paid, employed and unemployed is wider than ever before. Governments, the world over, are beginning to debate the merits of interventions in their domestic economies, as well as internationally, to stave off a repeat of the Great Depression of 1929. The extent of this crisis and its contagious nature is due to a combination of the overproduction of capital and commodities and extensive financial deregulation that has left many developing countries highly exposed to speculative foreign exchange movements. The neo-liberal dogma told governments to stop borrowing while individuals and private financial institutions were encouraged to do so. The current crisis only serves to underline our 10th Congress programme and resolutions that privatisation, deregulation and unregulated market forces are no solution to the problems facing humanity, particularly the poor.
The measures being proposed by many of the world's leaders are hardly up to the task of dealing with the magnitude or nature of the problem that confronts us as humanity. There are those who are insane enough to be proposing more and bigger doses of the same medicine that has brought on this very crisis, such as greater deregulation, for instance. In our own country such forces are calling for "more GEAR" or "GEAR II". But such calls for interventions to provide some interim relief, or for a "Post-Washington consensus" in order to stave off the imminent disaster, are all made in the name of saving the capitalist system. The futility of this approach is obvious. All attempts, global or otherwise, to prop up the ailing capitalist system, offer no future, no answers, and no relief to the millions of starving inhabitants of our planet, to the unemployed, and those with little or no health care, education, and other basic necessities.
Instead of measures that amount to little more than tinkering, real steps need to be taken to spearhead the transformation of the global economy from a capitalist one to a socialist one. There is a clear need to link calls for the transformation of international political organisations such as the United Nations (UN), which have been made by the President of our country, to the transformation of other institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The setting up of a World Finance Organisation should not be a repeat of the relationships in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where developing countries are told to reduce tariffs while the wealthier countries still protect their economies.
The central issue for the world economy is to ensure that the basic needs of all people are met first and that opportunities and services are extended to all. This cannot be achieved without greater planning and co-ordination and through the ending of the system of private ownership of the means of production. Such measures need to be led by encouraging collective development efforts, such as labour intensive mass infrastructure and housing schemes and on the creation of co-operative economic opportunities where the maximum may participate and enjoy the rewards of work. The regulation of the financial markets, internationally if possible but nationally if nothing else, should be a priority, along with government intervention in the key sectors of the economy that deliver public goods, such as transport.
This does not mean that there is no role for the private sector in the current period capital. Public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on the relationship between the public (the people) and government, that ensure the interests of the people and not business are put first are key to launching the growth necessary for sustainable development. But this must be in a context where the market is problematised and transformed to being a place where real rational decisions are taken on behalf of the majority. Of crucial concern must also be the rapid upliftment of the skills base of the economy through a comprehensive human resource development programme. Socialism is the only answer to the current world economic crisis and as South Africans we must play a leading role in developing and implementing the policies that will bring about the much needed qualitative change in the conditions of the vast majority of the worlds people.
Cynics may scoff and say, "what is the Party's vision of socialism?" or that the SACP does not have a coherent idea of what to do to transform the economy. Our reply is simple. The bulk of the wealth of the country must be in the hands of the people. Economically, socialism is the democratic ownership and control of the economy and involves more planning and regulation by the government in consultation with the people. Politically, socialism will involve greater democratic governance, where the masses of our people are given the right to participate in the planning and implementation of policies that lead to a more just and humane society with no extremes of wealth and poverty.
If that is not clear enough then we can only say to our detractors that the ideological blinkers they wear do not allow them to see the logic and wisdom inherent in such a simple approach. No amount of protestation about the lack of alternatives to the current neo-liberal world disorder will fool the masses.
It is the sound of the hungry stomachs of these very masses which calls for humane and rational alternatives to capitalism. This is one more reason to build a strong SACP.
That is why we say, socialism is the future, build it now!
Major Ntela Sikhosana was born in Escourt on 23rd August 1964. He matriculated at Wembezi High in 1983. During December 1983, as a young activist, he was forced into exile in Mozambique, where he was arrested and imprisoned for six months. An intervention by comrades JG Zuma and Joe Slovo secured his release. Cde Nkela proceeded to Zambia and then to Angola where he received military training and appointed as a Commissar.
He subsequently went to Cuba, where he received training in military intelligence and international politics.
When he returned to South Africa he joined the underground ranks of MK in the Natal Midlands Region. In 1987 he was arrested for the Empangeni Operation and sentenced to Robben Island for 12 years in 1989. Due to the special amnesty, cde Nkela was released in 1991. Upon his release, he was promoted to the rank of Commander of MK for the Natal Midlands Region until 1994.
As a tried and tested soldier he was promoted to the rank of Major in the SANDF, and was the head of the Integration and Demobilisation process. As a Major, he was responsible for the military intelligence office at Group 9 in Pietermaritzburg where he acquitted himself with great distinction under severe pressure.
Although cancer robbed cde Nkela of a long life, his was a life filled with revolutionary meaning. He was an outstanding intellectual and soldier. When some sought high office in government he chose to remain a soldier and he did so with a communist consciousness. One of his greatest dilemmas was that as a member of the SANDF he could not openly be an activist of the SACP, an organisation which shaped his character and intellect. Cde Nkela's life was an example of a quiet and unassuming physical embodiment of the values and culture of the SACP and of the international communist movement even when it was no longer politically fashionable to be a communist. Through these universal values, cde Nkela became an intellectual force and touched everyone as a simple, humble and yet a sophisticated new human being.
Hamba kahle, mkhonto
We pick up your spear, flowering with peace
At the SACP 10th Congress a resolution was passed instituting the Moses Kotane Award, to be given to SACP cadres who have made an outstanding contribution to both the struggle for national liberation and socialism.The resolution noted that such contributions are reflected in terms of quality and length of service.
As a result of the passing of this resolution, two SACP cadres were presented with the Moses Kotane Award by the General Secretary; These two comrades are:
Brian Bunting and Billy Nair.
Between these outstanding cadres, there is over 100 years of service to the Party at all levels of leadership. Umsebenzi congratulates both comrades and celebrates their commitment to the SACP and their revolutionary courage.
Years ago it was training
Yesterday it was multi-skilling
Today is multi-tasking
Oh! why workplace restructuring?
Cost cutting became the name of the game
Retrenchments became the order of the day
Severance packages became christmas boxes
Yes! all in the name of workplace restructuring.
Economies collapse - in the name of the New world order
Globalisation became the world's language
and Revolutionary words are becoming entertainment.
Capitalists new story became restructuring
Productivity becomes their red wine
Job losses became workers' graves because of flexibility
Competitiveness is the order of the day
Downsizing and Rightsizing remain capitalist core business
Casuals and part timers - sub contract workers and seasonal
workers are now flexible cheap labourers.
Sub-contractors are now prostitutes of industries
Just-in-time became a call to retrench workers for profit
International competitiveness a guillotine for workers
Job security a dream of the past
This is because of flexibility.
Low wages becomes International disease
Laws change to suit the capitalist
Capital intensive substitutes labour intensive
Yes! all in the name of flexibility
Yes! all in the name of workplace restructuring.
In the second part of our 'Understanding the Basics of Our Struggle' series, Umsebenzi takes up a discussion on the key area of imperialism in the context of colonialist history. While many on the left have stopped using this term, communists understand that the fundamentals of imperialism are still very much with us on a global scale. The present crises of capitalism reveal, more then ever, the theoretical relevance and strategic importance of understanding and unmasking imperialism in our struggle for socialism. As we noted in our last issue, most of this material is taken from the soon-to-be-released joint SACP-COSATU Political Education booklet.
Imperialism is an advanced stage of capitalism. Imperialism is associated with three main features:
- The growing monopolisation of the economy by a handful of major corporations
- The increasing export of productive capital to undeveloped parts of the world, extending capitalist exploitation and oppression globally
- The growing integration of finance capital with productive capital, leading increasingly to the dominance of finance capital
Capitalism is associated with an accumulation process. By the end of the 19th century this process resulted in a growing concentration of power and resources. Concentration occurred at two levels:
- At the level of the production unit. Instead of scattered small and medium-sized workshops, increasingly production was organised into large, integrated units. For instance, blast furnaces, coking plants, steelworks and rolling mills were now combined into one huge factory. To start up production, it now required millions, instead of a few thousands. (While small capitalist enterprises have continued down to the present, their sphere of activity has become more and more limited.)
- At the level of the firm or company. Precisely because production was now organised on a large factory, production line basis, there was also the coming together of many distinct capitals in the modern joint stock company or corporation.
The earlier period of capitalism was a competitive stage of capitalism.Thousands of small firms competed with each other on the same market.
Competition drove down prices, as each small firm competed with the others. Capitalist propaganda still presents capitalism as a "competitive" system operating on a "free market". In fact, competition and free markets have long since ceased to be the dominant features of capitalism. Huge, global transnational corporations dominate and manipulate the markets. They set their own prices, and they suppress competition as much as possible.
The Export of Productive Capital
In the last quarter of the 19th century, the growing accumulation and concentration of capital resulted in over-accumulation. In the main capitalist countries, like Britain, there was a need to find new markets and new investment opportunities. In the last decades of the 19th century, there was suddenly a vast movement of capital into Africa, the East, the Middle East and Latin America. This was the period of the "scramble for Africa". In the space of little more than 10 years, the leading capitalist powers carved out almost all our continent as exclusive colonial territories for themselves.
There had been European colonial settlements in Africa before this period. The earlier European colonial settlement was mainly associated with mercantile capitalism. Mercantile capitalism was linked to long-distance trading. Companies, like Jan van Riebeek's Dutch East India Company, used sailing fleets to travel thousands of kilometres to purchase in the East goods that were scarce in the West - spices, cotton and silk. These could be sold at huge profits back in Europe. The early European colonial settlements in Southern Africa (like Cape Town and Lourenco Marques/Maputo) were designed to protect and service these valuable trade routes.
The colonial domination of Africa (and other parts of the globe) from the late 19th century had a different character. Now it was not just trade, but millions were actually invested in plantations, mines, railways and harbours, and later in manufacturing. By 1914, between a quarter and one-third of British capital was now invested overseas.
Of course, this was less about "developing" these colonised or dependent countries. It was more about profiting from the vast natural wealth and from "cheap" labour. Although vast sums of money were invested, it was always in a very skewed way. Infrastructure was built not for the all-round development of the society, but to ensure the most rapid plundering and export of minerals, for instance.
It was precisely in this period that South Africa, as a politically unified country, came into being. By the end of the 19th century, what was going to be "South Africa", was still a cluster of feudal Boer republics, independent African tribal states, and two British-controlled colonies centred on three ports (Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban).
The imperialist development of diamond and gold industrial mining in the interior, in the last 30 years of the 19th century, created the need to "unify" these huge investments with the ports. This is what underpinnedthe Anglo-Boer war (1899 - 1901). The ultimate victory of the British Colonial army created the conditions for the Union of South Africa (1910).
The scramble for Africa, and other imperialist attempts to control the undeveloped world, led rapidly to intra-imperialist rivalry. The major corporations in the developed capitalist countries scrambled to extend their own control over the resources of the rest of the world. This was the major cause of the First World War (1914 - 1918). In the middle of this First World War, Lenin underlined the imperialist nature of the war.
In his famous work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin noted all of the main features of imperialism. He noted how:
- capitalist over-accumulation in the developed capitalist countries had led to increasing export of productive capital;
- this had required larger companies; which had led
- to growing monopolisation; and
- to a scramble between imperialist powers to control the world's resources
There was one more important feature of imperialism that Lenin also underlined:
The development of imperialism just over 100 years ago brought with it the need to assemble vast financial resources. There was a need, for instance, to float huge, multi-national corporations, capable of investing millions in the development of infrastructure for deep-level gold mining on the Rand. In the earlier phase of capitalism, small productive capitals borrowed money from banks when they needed to set up a new workshop. But productive capital and finance (or banking) capital were largely separate operations.
Now, increasingly, productive and finance capital inter-mingled. Control over finance capital provided strategic information. Bankers were no longer content just to lend money, when strategic knowledge about new gold-fields opening up in South Africa, for instance, could be used to reap millions through direct investment. For their part, the captains of industry were no longer just engineers or geologists or former artisans who understood production. Increasingly they were experts in putting together vast monopoly consortiums. The separation between banking capital and productive capital began to disappear.
In the course of the 20th century this tendency, noted by Lenin in 1915, has gathered speed. Indeed, more and more finance capital has started to dominate capitalism. As Richard Barnet, an American writer notes:
"The Global Financial Network is a constantly changing maze of currency transactions, global securities, Mastercards, euro-yen, swaps, and an ever more innovative array of speculative devices for re-packaging and re-selling money. This network is much closer to a chain of gambling casinos than to the dull, grey banks of the past. Twenty-four hours a day, trillions of dollars flow through the world's foreign exchange markets. No more than 10 percent of this staggering sum has anything to do with trade in goods and services."
The trillions of dollars that move around the globe each day (as blips on computer screens) completely dwarf the international flows of more stable foreign productive investment. The blood-sucking, financial tick that once lived on the back of the productive cow has now completely overgrown and overwhelmed its host.
This situation lies at the heart of the latest phase of imperialism, which we often call globalisation. We will deal in more detail with this "new" form of imperialism in the next issue.
One of the key areas of social delivery that has been negatively affected by the profit agenda of capital has been housing. In most cases, communities are struggling against private banks, that have responded to their self-generated crisis by hiking interest rates and foreclosing on 'defaulters'. SACP activist, TEBOGO PHADU, relates how the Community Housing Forum in Tembisa is taking up the challenge.
At a recently held Tembisa community meeting there were hundreds of residents in attendance, dominated by the affected bond-holders, and politically charged from the beginning. Many residents who attended came with their letters from SERVCON (a body established to deal with the "historical problems" of bond-payment in the townships), warning them of imminent evictions and conversion of their properties to rental (market related) housing. There are about 2500 residents who are in bond-default in Tembisa.
The main item on the agenda was a community response to SERVCON's "payment normalisation programme" and its threat of mass evictions. It understood its mission as "persuading residents to pay their bonds". But, as one comrade said at the meeting, "the problem is not the community but the banks".
It was clear to residents, after a lengthy account by Comrade Malahlela, Chairman of the Community Housing Forum (CHF), of the three year negotiations they had with SERVCON, that the conditions which necessitated the bond boycott in the late 1980s have not changed.
Residents talked about "the Four Conditions for Resolution"- lower interest rates, independent evaluation of the properties, the plight of the unemployed and pensioners and their right to housing.
Throughout these negotiations, SERVCON kept offering various packages for rescheduling, warning of future evictions and leaving out the social concerns raised by the community. Various speakers expressed their frustrations with SERVCON and the manner in which it failed to honour agreements with the residents.
One example is the property evaluation report by CSIR that showed most houses were overpriced. Houses priced for R50 000, for example, were educed to less than R20 000, the average being R15 000, by the CSIR report. But the report was never released to the community. One comrade managed to "grab" a copy before SERVCON got their hands on it (earlier evaluation reports were allegedly manipulated by SERVCON before being released to the residents), and it was used as negotiating weapon by the CHF. SERVCON and the banks, however, have denied the existence of such a report.
The latest SERVCON move to "rightsize" and rent the houses, was viewed as provocative - a return to a Tembisa of the past, where most township match-box houses were subdivided into one or two rooms for different tenants. According to SERVCON, about R50 million has been allocated by the national government to rightsize residents "within existing properties", or through "relocation grants" to unvezanyawo (meaning "where your feet show") houses, which have mushroomed all over Gauteng.
In response to these moves, residents have called for:
- continuing social appropriation of the houses (a call for "social housing")
- more developed forms of organisation for the defence of the "properties in possession"
- the closure of SERVCON
- adding another "condition" to the Four Conditions for Resolution - an end to the "redlining" of Tembisa
- the Community Housing Forum negotiation team to develop a clear proposal for a social housing programme
- forging links with other local struggles and alternatives With regard to the threats of evictions, which are not new, but are taken seriously, residents agreed that SERVCON does not have capacity to evict 2500 people from their houses, and have instead chosen the following route of mobilisation and action:
- embarking on community-wide support for the positions they have adopted gainst the banks and SERVCON. This will involve residents associations, taxi associations, the ANC, COSATU locals, burial societies, housing co-operatives, church organisations and street and ward committees
- to collaborate with those who share our concerns and desires (for example, Meadowlands in 1997)
- Zonal meetings (group of sections) to exercise community vigilance and defence of properties in possession.
Many of the links established so far are not "bureaucratic" alliances but rather steadfastly organic. The bondholders' call for social housing echoes, in different tone, the struggle of homeless Tembisans (e.g.,backyard and shack dwellers). The homeless have been engaged in the their own struggle against developer driven housing in places like Temong section. They have kicked out notorious developers like Vieptro, and in its place, they are constructing housing co-operatives. They utilise both their own resources and source support from government for subsidies and land. Hit by the banks and developers, communities are coming together, sharing ideas and strategies on building alternatives to market dominated housing. One could actually say residents are rolling back the market expansion in housing.
The community struggles against the banks should be understood in the current context of the financial assault on the working class by financial capital. This is an attack on their credit and purchasing capacity - whether as workers and consumers. That they are now reaching out to the general community is an indication of their understanding of the full impact of bank policies, particularly high interest rates, on working class communities.
Activists in the Community Housing Forum have extended links to other formations and have addressed different forums and structures such as the Tembisa and East Rand Taxi Associations, small business people and so on.
In turn these organisations have called their own meetings to discuss the problem of the banks and the kind of actions they might take, particularly against high interests rates.
While prepared to take on the banks on this issue and other issues such as red-lining, the Tembisans are exploring the possibility of creating their own micro financial institution to protect their communities from loan sharks of various sorts (including "cash loans" mashonisas). The creation of this new space is being pioneered by burial societies in Tembisa ( Tembisa has about 200 burial societies and 80 of them are under one umbrella body).
However, the struggle of the bank debtors in Tembisa could find itself neutralised or crushed if other struggles like those of COSATU, consumer organisations, Meadowlands 1997 and concerned taxi associations do not communicate to them. It is only when these struggles speak to each other that banks can go downwards. Last year, COSATU initiated a partially successful campaign against the bank's interest rates that was able to mobilise cross-class alliances against the banks. Is it not time to revitalise such initiatives, with the SACP and COSATU paying an ative role?
Tribal wisdom among North American Indians says that when you discover hat you are riding a dead horse, the best policy is to dismount and eave it. In business management however, a different kind of wisdom seems to prevail - a wisdom that sectors in SA government circles appear, unfortunately, to have taken to heart. (*Editors note - although Umsebenzi has a clear idea, we leave it up to our readers to decide what the 'dead horse' represents)
- Buy a stronger whip
- Appoint a committee to study the horse
- Take trips to far-flung places to see how they ride dead horses
- Hire consultants to manage a change in requirements and declare that "this horse is not dead"
- Hire casual labour to ride the dead horse
- Harness several dead horses together for increased speed
- Provide additional funding to improve the dead horse's performance
- Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses
- Promote the dead horse into a managerial position
A central element in the neo-liberal, capitalist agenda for countries such as South Africa, is the privatisation of public enterprises and essential services. Although the scale of privatisation has, so far, been limited as a result of widespread popular resistance, there are signs of an increasing tendency towards 'fast-tracking' the privatisation process as a component of GEAR. The union movement has been at the forefront of organised opposition to privatisation, particularly the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU). Here, SAMWU's Media Officer, ANNA WEEKES, and Legal Officer, JOHN BROWN detail the ongoing struggle.
NEDLAC negotiations to avert a COSATU nation-wide strike brought the struggle against privatisation of essential services to a head in mid-September with the declaration of a deadlock. In his harshest attack yet on SAMWU, Minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial affairs Valli Moosa said after the deadlock that COSATU opposition to privatisation was merely the work of a few ultra-left elements within SAMWU. He went on to accuse the union of "blocking the extension of services to poor communities without even consulting them."
Both SAMWU and COSATU's opposition to privatisation can in fact be traced back to the launches of the organisations in the eighties. At that time, opposition to privatisation was not unique to the trade union movement, but was built into Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) provisions for a strong public sector along with the call for 25 litres of water per person per day free of charge.
Union opposition to privatisation has taken the form of mass action in recent years out of the necessity to act against the imminence of this key component of GEAR. Nelspruit TLC plans to privatise its water on November 1st this year to a British transnational for 25 years. The implications of this for other municipalities and the constant supply of horror stories streaming into the SAMWU offices from public sector workers and communities in other countries have helped bring extra urgency to the efforts of the union.
"We do not hide from the fact that our opposition to privatisation is ideological," says SAMWU General Secretary Roger Ronnie. "But it is in the day to day privatisation experiences of communities across the world where the correctness of our position is substantiated."
One such horror story is that of Manila, Philippines. The privatization of the Manila Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), along with state owned water, power, food, postal services, seaports, hospitals and education came about late in 1996 as part of an IMF-World Bank dictated Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Although the ANC spends much energy these days insisting that GEAR is the economic framework for delivery of the RDP, it was a surprise to SAMWU that Minister Moosa lauded the Manila example in particular. SAP's are generally not praised by the South African government, if only for the reason that they undermine the African Renaissance concept. "Equating globalisation and GEAR with service delivery is nothing more than one of the biggest con tricks in history and totally disrespectful of those who sacrificed their lives in the cause of a better life for all," said SAMWU General Secretary Roger Ronnie.
The IMF and the Philippine government could very well be sacrificing the lives of Filipino community members through the SAP. In the run-up to privatisation, the MWSS was forced to pay the private financing arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the hefty sum of US$ 6.1 million to prepare the bidding documents and agreements for the privatisation. Raining down scarce financial resources on consultants could very well reach this level in South Africa soon.Already consultants have drained more than R11 million in the tender process for Nelspruit alone.
In Manila, the IFC also got to make the rules - one of these was that no local private company would be allowed to bid without having a foreign company as a strategic partner. It was therefore no surprise to public sector unionists when two consortiums bought the MWSS. The east was sold to a US/UK transnational consortium and the west to a consortium dominated by the notorious French-based water transnational, Lyonnaise Des Eaux.
The Lyonnaise trail of chaos not only encompasses countries on four continents around the southern hemisphere, including South Africa, but has also wrecked many lives in the north. The water of Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape was privatised several years ago to a Lyonnaise subsidiary.
Last month dead dogs, cats and bottles of industrial cleaner were found floating in the local reservoir after the community complained that the water was undrinkable. In a coincidence that would be startling were it not that Lyonnaise is one of the three most dominant water transnationals in the world, over one million households in Sydney, Australia were left without water for several days after the Lyonnaise water system was contaminated by biological parasites! In typical style, executives in Fort Beaufort and Sydney have denied that they bear any responsibility for the contamination.
The effect Lyonnaise had on Manila's water was predictably disastrous, although a lot more immediate than anyone expected. According to a report from public sector federation, COURAGE, it was mere months after the MWSS privatisation that the consortium tried to hike up tariffs by a massive 196%! Water has been privatised for almost two years, yet seven million Metro Manilans remain without a regular supply - 60% of the city's water continues to leak out of old pipes. In desperation, citizens have made illegal connections into the water supply. Illegal connections have their own problems. A recent outbreak in typhoid fever in Malabon, north of Manila, was traced to illegal connections. Says Ferdinand Gaite, President of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), "We strongly see great similarities in our conditions. GEAR is similar to our Philippines 2000 which is based on requirements being set by the WTO and free trade agreements. Safety nets are ineffective and futile in protecting workers' rights," says Gaite. The track record of the handful of transnationals in their voracious search for new markets could put the provision of basic services to the people of the south in serious jeopardy.
It is indeed unfortunate, that the privatisation agenda of monopoly capital, both domestic and international, could put at risk the RDP programme in regard to the provision of affordable basic services to those in most need.
In this respect, the massive cuts in the public spending don't augur well for local government which faces enormous challenges to uplift the standard of living of their people. It is incumbent on the national fiscus to give an equitable share of national revenue to local government. The procurement share could be substantially increased by increases in company tax and the introduction of a capital gains tax.
Municipalities like Nelspruit have been slammed, even by the mainstream press, for continuing to implement apartheid style budgets disproportionately to the white and township areas. Both white areas and businesses receive high levels of service, yet in many towns business does not pay rates. No wonder there is a shortfall in cash after all this madness! Can government really be surprised that communities and the unions are suspicious of the selfish private sector to save us all? In the Philippines, Ferdinand Gaite is asking the same question: "How can the masses benefit from this cruel parody?"
SADTU held its 4th National Congress in Durban from Sept 6-9. HAROON AZIZ attended the Congress and reports on some of the important discussions and decisions.
As capitalism increases unemployment, inequality and poverty, the SADTU Congress made a clear reaffirmation of its commitment to socialism as the only means of transforming society. Congress noted that there has been a lack of political and economic education within SADTU, and this has resulted in an absence of political direction and socialist understanding. Since a socialist vision necessitates an appropriate cadreship development programme, Congress resolved to seek the assistance of the SACP and COSATU to overcome this ideological gap. In noting the demonisation of socialism by the mass media, Congress resolved to use community radio stations, newspapers and other alternative media to propagate socialism Although women comprise over 63% of SADTU's membership, this is not reflected in its leadership which is male-dominated at all levels.
Congress therefore resolved to elect not less than 40% women to leadership positions and to subject this resolution to a three-year period of scrutiny. All of SADTU's activities, structures and even school curricula are to be permeated by a gender awareness.
Congress rejected GEAR and decided to assist in developing an alternative economic set of macro-economic policies that are consistent with the RDP. It called for the Reserve Bank to be made accountable to the government and to the public and also rejected the wholesale privatisation of state assets and essential services. Furthermore, Congress made a clear call for the cancellation of the odious apartheid debt.
As education is the basis for social transformation, SADTU must be given full assistance by the SACP. Our future depends on it!
The military intervention of South African troops into Lesotho, in the context of a SADC initiative, on Tuesday 22 September has provoked an outcry in our own country. There has been widespread condemnation, ranging from the South African Council of Churches, through the PAC, to right-wing parties. Newspapers have described it as a "bungle", and theMail and Guardian in its editorial of Friday 25th September apologised "on behalf of South Africans" to the people of Lesotho.
In so far as all of this reflects a healthy and broad based South African distaste for military actions beyond our borders, it is, in principle, to be welcomed. Indeed, since 1994 our democratic South African government has been extremely reluctant to deploy troops externally. We need, as a nation, to think three and four times before we take military actions, and whatever is done needs to be subjected to close scrutiny and public debate. The SACP welcomes all of this.
But the condemnation of the SADC initiative in Lesotho has generally been grossly unbalanced and unfair. With the blame being thrown at the SANDF and SA government, the main culprits for the crisis in Lesotho have been getting off all too lightly.
In the judgement of the SACP the burden of culpability must lie, in the first instance, with the Lesotho political elite. The key Lesotho political actors, drawn from all the main parties and institutions, emerge from this episode in a very poor light.
The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party was the obvious beneficiary of an extremely flawed election in May. Those elections were characterised by widespread and apparently systematic irregularities.The Langa Commission, which produced (perhaps appropriately) a very legalistic document, found that it was not able to prove fraud, but it highlighted serious irregularities in at least 41 of the 80 constituencies.
In a court of law it may be difficult to prove guilt, but since the LCD was entirely the beneficiary of the irregularities, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure things out. The irony is that the LCD would almost certainly have won the elections in any case. The LCD has not helped its own case, since, by being extremely arrogant about the elections and about its own right to rule.
The opposition parties clearly had a case when calling into doubt the fairness of the May elections. But the opposition parties, and King Letsie, were prepared to play a highly reckless game in pursuit of their various objectives. The call for fresh elections, or at the very least by-elections in many constituencies, was absolutely legitimate, as was mass mobilisation around such demands. But the fostering of a creeping coup, the use of the junior ranks of the LDF (historically a problematically partisan army with allegiances to the BNP) to undermine the unity of the army, and to terrorise the police, went way beyond the legitimate. In the days before the SADC intervention, the national radio station had been closed down, some 50 senior officers in the LDF had fled into South Africa and the police were paralysed.
None of the major Lesotho political parties or institutions emerge with shining colours from this episode. There is some evidence that all were involved in acquiring weaponry and setting up militias. In the week before the SADC intervention, the LDC government had become invisible, and failed to appeal to its mass base. The Prime Minister wrote two letters to SADC requesting a military intervention, but was reportedly furious that the letters were made public by the South African government after the SADC intervention had begun. He had wanted to benefit from SADC troops, but he did not want to carry any responsibility for their presence!
When the looting in Maseru spread to other towns (where the security situation had not broken down), the LCD government failed to actively deploy the Lesotho police, and begged, instead for SADC troops to move into other towns as well.
The opposition parties were speculating on the break down of law and order in Lesotho, and failed to condemn what was happening in the LDF. But they have now also failed to assume any responsibility for the destruction of Maseru. The connections that many of these parties have to right-wing and other dubious forces in our country have also become more apparent in the last weeks, as they make all kinds of na´ve and ill-judged appeals to the likes of Tony Leon and Roelf Meyer.
As for King Letsie, we should remember that he was active in attempting to dissolve the 1994 elected government (the first democratically elected government in 20 years). This time around he has played a similar game, hoping that a melt-down in the multi-party electoral system would promote the political role of the monarchy.
SADC dynamics have been another factor complicating attempts to ensure democracy and stability in Lesotho. Many of the more conservative SADC heads of state see mass protests in neighbouring states as a "bad example" that needs to be suppressed robustly - before the habit catches on at home. This often impedes a flexible and humane approach, so necessary to the resolution of complex problems. There were, for instance, many disapproving raised eyebrows in SADC circles when our Minister of Defence, comrade Joe Modise, was prepared to engage junior officers in the Lesotho Defence Force, to ascertain the nature of their grievances.
The tardiness of the Botswana Defence Force in making its way (at a speed of 40 km per hour!) to Lesotho is another reality that has received little public attention. According to some reports, it was the BDF that was meant to secure the safety of the city while the SANDF focused on the tougher military objectives. The fact that the BDF arrived a day late, after most of the shooting was over, contributed to the failure to protect the commercial centre of Maseru, while military battles were raging at the LDF bases and the Katse dam complex.
All of this is not to say that there was not some serious clumsiness in the SANDF side of the operation in Lesotho. The SADC troops are now a factor for stability, and their continued presence in Lesotho for the present must be supported. The courageous and generally humane and restrained way in which most SANDF troops conducted themselves must also be acknowledged. There are still questions about the timing and even advisability of the intervention in the first place, but that is now water under the bridge. King Letsie (whatever his own role and agenda) seems to have been side-lined in the period immediately preceding the intervention. The SACP is sure that the events will be analysed and debated in a balanced (and not point-scoring way) in the coming months by our own relevant military, intelligence and political structures in government.
Clearly the operation, in its first days, was also a communications flop. While the South African and the world's media portrayed the intervention as an aggressive invasion, the real story was not emerging with any clarity, and the ANC and its alliance partners were left with a sense of disempowerment in the first days of the intervention. There are clearly lessons to be drawn from this experience.
What is the way forward? The SACP agrees with its alliance partners and with the SA government, that the way forward in Lesotho is essentially in the hands of the people of Lesotho themselves. It is our view, however, that the following elements are essential for any enduring democratic outcome:
- New elections must be held in Lesotho, preferably general elections, but at the very least by-elections in all constituencies in which there were demonstrable and serious irregularities. Clearly, the existing Electoral Commission cannot be entrusted with new elections, and a much more effective and reliable electoral management and oversight mechanism is essential;
- There needs to be a wide-ranging discussion within Lesotho on the most appropriate electoral dispensation. It seems to us that the present, Westminster electoral system, of constituency based elections in which the winner takes all, is a source of some instability. Consideration should be given to building in some element of proportional representation, fostering greater political inclusiveness.
- Punitive measures against rebel soldiers will only promote the possibilities of a lingering guerrilla war in Lesotho. The grievances of soldiers and the general restructuring and depoliticisation of the LDF must be handled sensitively in the context of an overall political settlement;
- The restoration of infrastructure and of humanitarian and welfare into Lesotho itself must be a priority of the Lesotho government, of SADC, and of all progressive civil society formations in Lesotho and in our region;
- While the King has a symbolic and nation building role, any attempts to politicise the monarchy further must be resisted.
- While it may be tempting to call for the immediate withdrawal of the SADC armed forces in Lesotho, we believe that this would be a serious mistake at this point.
"Great Crises always deliver great solutions "
In early September, comrade President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, spent several days in South Africa. He attended the NAM Summit, spoke to Parliament, visited Soweto and held meetings with various leaders of the movement. In all his public addresses, cde Castro's message was that capitalism has failed humanity and the only solution to this latest of crises is socialism. Here, Umsebenzi presents an edited version of cde Castro's speech to the SA Parliament.
I think about this country and its history. I find going through my mind all kinds of events, facts, occurrences and realities that reflect the heavy responsibility and the colossal historical task of creating the new South Africa that you have proposed to yourselves. I hope that my presence in South Africa leaves you at least with one essential recollection, namely, my fervent and sincere desire to support your tremendous efforts in healing the deep wounds that have been opened in this country throughout the centuries.
Today, there are still two South Africas, which I must not call black and white. Such terminology should be banned forever if the aim is to create a multiracial and united country. I would rather say it in a different way: Two South Africas, one rich and the other poor, one and the other:
One where an average family receives twelve times the income of the other. One where children who die before their first birthday represent 13 per thousand children, another where those who die represent 57 per thousand. One where life expectancy is 73 years old, another where it only reaches 56 years of age. One where 100% of the population can read and write, another where illiteracy is higher than 50 per cent. One where employment is abundant and almost reaching full capacity; another where 45% of the population is unemployed; one where 12% of the population owns almost 90% of the land; another where almost 80% of the population owns less than 10% of the land. One South Africa which accumulated, and now enjoys, all the necessary administrative and technical knowledge and skills, another which was condemned to inexperience and ignorance. One that enjoys its well-being and freedom; another which has only been able to attain freedom without well-being.
This horrible inheritance is not going to be changed overnight. Nothing is gained by disorganising the production structures or by misusing the vast material and technical wealth, as well as the productive efficiency created by the hands of noble workers, under an unjust and cruel system that is virtually slavery. Effecting social change in a orderly, gradual and peaceful manner so as to ensure that those riches are geared towards benefiting the South African people in the best possible way is probably one of the most difficult tasks to carry out in human society. It is, in the view of this intrepid visitor whom you have invited to be here and say a few words, the greatest challenge facing South Africa today.
While we are faced with deserts that are expanding, forests that are disappearing, and soils that are being eroded, there is something else that is horrifying. Old and new illnesses, including malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera, the Ebola virus, parasites, and curable infectious diseases continue to decimate the population of Africa's countries. Rates for infant mortality and for mothers who die during childbirth are reaching record levels in comparison to the rest of the world. In some African countries, life expectancy is starting to be shortened. The horrible HIV virus is spreading at exponential rates. I do not exaggerate, and you know that I do not, if I say that entire nations in Africa are at the risk of disappearing. Every infected person would need to pay ten thousand dollars in medicines each year only to survive, at a time when health budgets can only allocate 10 dollars to be spent on the health of each person. At current prices, it would be necessary to invest 250 billion dollars in Africa each year only to combat AIDS. It is for this reason that Africa accounts for 9 out of 10 people on this planet who die of AIDS.
Can the world simply stand by with indifference at the sight of this catastrophe? Is man not capable of confronting this situation with the amazing scientific advances that are available today? What is the point of telling us about macroeconomic indicators and other forms of eternal deceit, such as the recipes and prescriptions from the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation? Why tell us of the miraculous properties of the blind laws of the market and of the wonders of neo-liberal globalisation? Why aren't these stark realities accepted once and for all? Why aren't other formulae found and why isn't it recognised that man is capable of organising his life and his destiny in a more rational and humane way?
An unavoidable and deep economic crisis, perhaps the worst in history, is threatening all of us today. The world, which has become an enormous gambling house, is seeing everyday speculation in the range of $1,5 trillion that has absolutely no relation, nothing to do with the real economy. Never before did world economic history see anything like this. The value of stocks in the US stock market has been rising to absurd levels. It was only historical privilege, associated with a set of factors, which made it possible for the wealthy nations to be the only ones in the world to issue the reserve currencies of every central bank in every country. The dollar stopped having gold backing when that country suppressed the exchange rate established at Bretton-Woods. As was the dream of so many alchemists in the Middle Ages, paper was converted into gold. Ever since then, the value of the reserve world currency has simply become a matter of confidence. It should be said that wars like that in Vietnam, which was waged at a cost of $500 billion, paved the way for this enormous deceit. To that we should add the colossal build-up without taxes, which raised the US public debt from $700 billion to $2,5 trillion in only eight years.
Money became a fiction. Values no longer had a real and material basis. In recent years, American investors purchased $9 trillion through the simple mechanism of unbridled multiplication of the stock prices in their market. We find this colossal growth of trans-national corporations' investments in the world or even in their own country, the US, at the same time that they have had unrestrained growth of domestic consumption.
This has been artificially feeding an economy that seems to grow and grow without inflation and without crises. However, sooner or later, the world will have to pay the price.
The most prosperous nations of south-east Asia have been ruined. Japan, the second world economy, can no longer stop recession. The yen keeps losing value; the yuan is being sustained not without great sacrifices by China, whose high growth will be reduced to less than 8 per cent this year - a figure dangerously close to the tolerable limit for a country that has conducted an accelerated radical reform and an extraordinary rationalisation of its labour force in its productive enterprises. The Asian crisis is coming back. The economic catastrophe that is emerging in Russia, when that country is trying to build capitalism, is the greatest social and economic failure in history. All that despite enormous economic assistance and the recommendations and advice given to them by the best minds in the West. And there is still another danger. At this moment, the major political danger is that a situation has been created in which a state with thousands of nuclear warheads has not paid the operators of the strategic missiles their salaries for five months. The stock markets in Latin America have lost, in only a few months, more than 40 per cent of the value of their stocks. The ones in Russia have lost 75 per cent of their value. And this phenomenon tends to expand everywhere. The basic commodities of many countries, such as copper, nickel, aluminium, petroleum, and many others, have lately lost 50 per cent of their prices.
The US stock market has begun to shake. As you very well know, they have just had what they call a black Monday. I don't know why they call it black, since it actually was a white Monday. No one knows exactly when and how general panic will be unleashed. Can anyone at this point be certain that there won't be a repetition of the 1929 crash? Neither Rubin, nor Greenspan, nor Camdessus, nor anyone can assure it. The tentativeness worries everyone, including the most eminent economic analysts. It's just that between that time and now, there is an enormous difference. In 1929, there was no $1,5 trillion involved in peculative transactions and only 3 per cent of Americans had shares in the stock market. Today, however, 50 per cent of the American population have their savings and their retirement funds invested in those stock markets. It's not a fabrication of mine. Neither is it a fantasy. Just read the newspapers. Add to that, if you so desire, that the new world order is destroying in an accelerated fashion the world in which we live, we the 6 billion people living on this planet now. This is the same world thas hould provide a living for the 10 billion people that we will be in only 50 years' time.
I have discharged my duty. You should not ask me for solutions. I am not a prophet. I only know that great crises have always delivered great solutions. Let there be more generosity, more co-operation, and more humanity. Let South Africa become a model of a more just and more humane future. If you can do it, we will all be able to do it.
Thanks to Florencia Belevedere of FOCUS-Gauteng for the translation