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

Subscribe to

Umsebenzi Online

Alternatively visit this group.

Subscribe to

Communist University

Alternatively visit this group.

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


PO Box 1027,
Johannesburg 2000,
South Africa

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

The latest Umsebenzi Online

The political attack of the capitalist crisis on women, its consequences in the struggle for socialism and the role of the vanguard Party - SACP statement on the occasion of the International Working Women's Day
Read more

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

No 155 Third/Fourth Quarter 2000

Published quarterly as a forum for Marxist-Leninist thought by the South African Communist Party


Take Forward the Local Government Victory
Take Forward the Banks Campaign
The Economic Debate id Opening Up
Note from the "AC" Editorial Collective

Organic South African Marxism

Against cash nexusing of our communities - the case of burial societies

Political Report to the Central Committee, 6-7 October 2000

From the Sino-Soviet conflict to socialism with Chinese characteristics

Forward to a people's democracy - India's path to socialism

HIV/AIDS - implications for equitable development

The Swazi revolution in context

Promoting a Progressive Cooperative Movement in South Africa: The Issue of Finance


Take Forward the Local Government Victory

As this issue of The African Communist goes to print, we are days away from the December 5th local government elections. The SACP has been campaigning amongst workers, poor communities and progressives for a powerful ANC vote in these elections. Our SACP campaigning has been greatly strengthened by a progressive ANC election manifesto, which, amongst other things, commits us as an Alliance to supplying a basic quantity of water and electricity free to all households. To make this possible a stepped-tariff approach will probably be adopted, especially in urban areas – with basic amounts of water and electricity free, and further amounts at higher tariffs. The more households at the upper end of the wealth scale consume, the more they will pay per unit of water or electricity.

This kind of commitment to meeting basic social needs free was first envisaged in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (the RDP) back in 1994. However, for the past years, this progressive approach was not implemented. Under financial pressures, and as a result of advice from neo-liberal aligned "specialists", the approach followed in many municipalities was a "the user-pays the market-price" approach.

Over the past years the SACP has been campaigning for a return to the RDP vision. At our 9th and 10th Congresses we reinforced this commitment by calling for the "rolling back" of the market, and for the "decommodification" of basic needs. The ANC election manifesto now commits our movement to implement this kind of measure, based on social needs and not on so-called "market" rationality.

In the coming months, the struggle to implement these policies in practice will be critical. In this regard, it is important that progressive forces, at the local level, play an active role in the newly legislated ward and village councils. These are designed to act as popular forums, which must be convened regularly by councillors to report-back and to listen to the concerns of communities. Potentially, these councils can be transformed into organs of popular power, and they can act as important safeguards against tendencies of bureaucratisation and remoteness in local government.

Take Forward the Banks Campaign

On October 21, in marches and pickets throughout South Africa, the SACP, working with its alliance partners and with SANCO, mobilised over 40,000 demonstrators. "Red Saturday against Red Lining" was part of our ongoing campaign for the transformation of the banks and broader financial sector in our country.

In the first instance, the public response to our campaign, not just through active participation in demonstrations, but through letters in newspapers, calls to local radio stations and to the Party offices, is an indication of the anger felt by many at the behaviour of banks. Many banks continue to discriminate racially – although this is often disguised as "financial" prudence. The fact, however, is that the overwhelming majority of black people, of all classes, receive poor or no effective banking services. Although it is now illegal, it is also clear that many banks still practise red-lining (a policy decision not to give loans for particular "red-lined" areas). Other major concerns that were voiced over and over in the course of the campaign is anger at micro-lenders and exorbitant interest rates they charge, and at the faceless and unanswerable Credit Bureau, which black-lists people without giving them effective remedies to appeal or change their status.

The SACP will continue to expose these practices, and we will continue to call for much greater transparency and more effective service to be rendered to all South Africans. However, our vision of transformation extends beyond improving consumer services. The financial sector is highly monopolised in our society, it is also a sector that is completely out of tune with our growth and development needs. The major, private sector financial institutions in our country are more interested in getting money out of our country, than in investing it in growth and development. When they do invest money in our economy, it is often on the stock exchange, or in shopping malls in up-market locations.

The SACP is calling for the overall restructuring of the financial sector in our society, so that it is better able to meet the needs of our people. Among other things, this means greatly improving the capacity and effectiveness of publicly-owned financial institutions – like the IDC and Land Bank. It also means bringing greater pressure to bear on the private banks and financial houses – by, for instance, introducing Community Reinvestment Legislation, which will compel these institutions to divulge what resources they are putting into development. The SACP is also calling for the fostering of a co-operative banking sector. Such a sector exists in practice, in the form of stokvels, burial societies and other community savings clubs – but these societies are marginalized, disempowered, and subordinated to the large financial houses.

In the new year, the SACP will be pushing ahead with the banks campaign. We will, in particular, use the month of April to mobilise popular forces. We expect that, amongst other things, popular mobilisation will culminate in a financial sector summit at Nedlac.

The Economic Debate id Opening Up

"Do my eyes and ears deceive me?" Howard Barrell, the Mail & Guardian political correspondent wondered a few weeks ago in his "Over a Barrell" column ("Capitalism’s twilight world", October 27). What prompted Barrell’s feigned disbelief was the fact that, as he puts it, "South African communists have been conducting a campaign over the past month to force local banks to give ordinary folk access to, yes, capital."

"Further evidence", Barrell suggests, "that even capitalism’s harshest critics can no longer find a plausible alternative to it." Barrell, of course, conveniently fudges the difference between "capital" (resources, like money) and "capitalism" (a private profit-driven and exploitative system).

However, this polemical sally is really a diversion, hoping to distract us from the fact that it is Barrell who is beginning to have second thoughts. He has bombarded us for the last several years with a single economic thought: the "rules" of the global capitalist game are inescapable, and their zealous application to South Africa is our only salvation. Any questioning of this dogma has been derided as infantile, unreconstructed and demagogic.

But now Barrell is also beginning to waver, just a little bit. He has begun to notice that "the vast majority of South Africans are excluded from full participation in our capitalist system". Hallelujah! The explanation for this exclusion is, according to Barrell (borrowing from the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto), a result of "oversight" on the part of property law in South Africa and in most other capitalist economies. Property law fails to register the actual assets of the poor. (Perhaps this is, indeed, part of an explanation – it is even more a symptom of a social and legal system based on profit-taking by the powerful.)

Interestingly, Barrell is not the only born-again neo-liberal beginning to falter. The November issue of Thami Mazwai’s Enterprise ("where black business lives") magazine has a cover story that basically calls for the dumping of government’s macro-economic GEAR policy. More significantly, the November 6 issue of the US Business Week is also in a more pensive mood. Why, it wonders, has the word "globalisation" come to be so tarnished? "It’s hard to figure how a term that once connoted so much good for the world has fallen into such disrepute."

Business Week offers some explanations: "The plain truth is that market liberalisation by itself does not lift all boats, and in some cases, it has caused severe damage to poor nations. What’s more, there’s no point denying that multinationals have contributed to labour, environmental, and human-rights abuses as they pursue profit around the globe". Hallelujah!

Business Week goes further, advancing the kind of critique of the Washington Consensus for which, just a year or two ago, the SACP would have been derided. "It all adds up to a breakdown of what was known as the Washington Consensus. The grandiose term refers to a world view pushed aggressively by the US Treasury, the IMF, and the World Bank in the early 1990s. This dictum held that all countries should open their markets to trade, direct investment and short-term capital as quickly as possible. The transition would be painful, but inevitably, markets would achieve equilibrium, and prosperity would result. In hindsight, it was a naïve and self-interested view…Even the orthodoxy that developing countries should quickly lower import barriers and slash the state’s role in industry is being challenged." Again, hallelujah!

Sadly, "we-told-you-so" chips cannot be cashed in. More sadly, the wide open horizons of sustained growth and development that have been promised to South Africans (once the painful transition had been weathered) remain endlessly deferred. Of course, neither Barrell, nor Mazwai, nor Business Week are about to abandon their faith in capitalism, but their hesitations open up the possibility of, finally, beginning to have a thoughtful discussion on the way forward, here in South Africa and globally.

Note from the "AC" Editorial Collective

The AC editorial collective apologises to subscribers and readers of the journal that this year, once more, we have had unavoidably to combine the third and fourth quarter issues. We hope that the quality of this combined issue makes up for our shortcoming and that, in future years, we will ensure quarterly publication.


Organic South African Marxism

African Sociology--Towards a Critical Perspective - The Collected Essays of Bernard Makhosezwe Magubane, published by Africa World Press, Trenton, ISBN 0-86543-661-4, 618 pp. (R200 distributed in Southern Africa by Phambili Agencies)

Reviewed by Patrick Bond. Patrick Bond teaches at Wits University.

Collected in "African Sociology--Towards a Critical Perspective", twenty major articles authored by Ben Magubane from 1968-94 represent elegant radical political-economic analysis. The legacy from which Magubane writes is the African Diaspora’s most creative Marxism, encompassing names like Du Bois, Fanon, Cabral, James, Rodney, and South Africans H.I.E. Dhlomo and Govan Mbeki. During a quarter-century of productive intellectual--yet still activist-- exile in the United States, Magubane applied this tradition to a critique of capitalist reality, ideology and social science methodology in several areas that retain a fresh relevance today.

Magubane's three chapters on urban problems, for example, vividly blend Engels on Manchester, diverse writers on African cities, and contemporary Marxist criticism. It is a convincing accomplishment, because "Engels' method as a fieldworker and as a revolutionary theoretician calls us back to this work again and again, in a world where locales and people have shifted, but the processes remain the same." Likewise on race, Magubane offers timeless analysis, particularly where he demolishes received notions of "tribalism," investigating the origins of migrant labour and all that it entails (still today).

Notwithstanding his US base, Magubane was well placed to contend with the local 1970s-80s liberal-radical debates. His studies traverse not just the traditional white academic terrain, with its flawed conceptions of race/class dynamics. It also updates the historical arguments of Simons, Jaffe, Majeki, and Mnguni, who so angered the liberal historians Wilson and Thompson. The book is also a rare guide to why mainstream intellectual currents and methods in social anthropology are less relevant in African settings. Magubane is by no means anti-Western (for C. Wright Mills and many latter day radicals earn his approval), but offers a consistent, passionate defense of revolutionary African intellectual and political traditions.

Internationally, Marxism has long sought the kind of imaginative applications Magubane provides. Although politically committed to the African National Congress, Magubane does not hesitate to follow his critical instincts when it comes to post-colonial states. Drawing inspiration from Fanon and especially Cabral, he insists, "The limits of bourgeois nationalism are essentially defined not just by its underlying loyalty to the institutional structures inherited from colonialism, but also by the belief of colonial elites that capitalism remains valid despite the state of their underdeveloped and impoverished societies... Neocolonialism necessitates that the petty bourgeoisie be given enough cards to play, their authority with their own people depending upon it."

From the universities of Natal to California/Los Angeles during the 1950s-60s as a student, and then to Lusaka and Connecticut to research and teach for the next three decades, Magubane has enjoyed an enormously fruitful career. It is fitting that he recently relocated to Pretoria's reforming Human Science Research Council to conduct another magisterial study of the roots of racism. Like his 1996 book The Making of a Racist State (Africa World Press), the last chapter in *African Sociology* presages this concern, for it reignites controversy over the figure of Cecil Rhodes and the Round Table Movement. Here the full extent of systematic racism is unveiled in Rhodes' will and in the efforts of ideologues--Milner, Duncan, Buchan, Herbert Baker and many others--to establish varying justifications for British imperialism. Exile does good and bad things to intellectuals.

Magubane is a model of what kinds of knowledge can be taken from northern academia (and what must be rejected), and also of what insights African radicalism provides international social science. The inroads Magubane has made into bourgeois thought reflect his ability to delve deep into both the colonial psyche and the core mechanisms of capital accumulation. But that does not make him any less a profoundly organic South African radical intellectual, whose politics remained true to the cause while so many others U-turned, and whose professional work anyone serious about understanding African society must contend with.


Against cash nexusing of our communities - the case of burial societies

By Tebogo Phadu

For black working class communities, burial societies have always been the traditional, community based and co-operatively shared services on which they have been protecting themselves from the predatory organised private sector funeral industry and finance capital - insurance companies and the commercial banks. The source of this community power is the workers’ wages.

It is the black workers' wages that have been so fundamental in nurturing and sustaining the culture and practice of burial society system in South Africa. However, for the past several years there has been an offensive across the country to introduce new schemes under finance capital to, in effect, 'cash nexus' the burial societies and bring them under the system of private profit, competition and appropriate their social value for the service of finance capital. This has been aggravated by attacks on workers' income, in a form of retrenchments, lower wages and fiscal monetarism. This poses a grave threat to the social and cultural existence of burial societies, as we have known them for decades in the black working class communities.

The challenge facing burial societies is to work together in order to create larger spaces of collective self-empowerment, to be protected and develop freely from capitalist exploitation of their resources and services.

The 1848 Communist Manifesto says "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’, and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’ or ‘cash nexus’" (my emphasis).

The 'cash nexus' of burial societies and traditional social bonds of the black working class communities is only one step in a series of cash nexuses that began with the imposition of capitalism in South Africa. The metaphor of 'cash nexus' is borrowed from Communist Manifesto when Marx describes the tendency of capitalists to reduce all of our lives to commodity relations - as workers, communities and so on. Such "cash nexus" has been called the revolution of the rich against the poor. However, cash nexusing is not just an historical episode of capitalist development. The cash nexus can be a guiding metaphor for understanding conflicts being generated by the financial capital and funeral industry to burial societies in black working class communities.

The endless desire to accumulate profit

Capitalism has inherent tendencies to self-expand, thereby crushing those traditions and social (non-market) bonds and relationships that have always been sources against its own existence. These social networks have, in black working class communities, played an extremely important role in providing social solidarity for resisting capitalism and apartheid as well as sustaining black (as opposed to tribalist) and class-consciousness.

Re-constitution of burial societies into commercialised, profit making oriented enterprises cannot be welcomed as one of the ways in which these traditional schemes can be modernised and "revolutionised". Neither could burial society presently be considered as just "survival systems of the poor". They need to be nurtured, protected and developed as forms of "collective self-empowerment" of our people. By collective self-empowerment we emphasise those times and spaces which our people build, and are relatively free of the logic of private accumulation, racism and sexism. (We say relatively free because they are, of course, spaces limited by the reality of capitalist domination, the apartheid legacy and patriarchy).

As community-life support systems, a burial societies service is a shared resource and service, it cannot be owned as private property or exploited for private profit. However, forces of private profit want burial societies to be transformed from being forms of self-empowerment, to be appropriated of their social and cultural value, to service the needs of finance capital.

Burial societies in South Africa have always been a traditional forms of collective self-empowerment, collectively owned and utilised resource and service for black working class communities. In a burial society, there exists a combination of rights and responsibilities among users of the service and combination of its utilisation and preservation. A burial society brings a sense of sharing among members of the community. They do not view this service in terms of property at all, (i.e. a good that has an owner and is used for the purpose of extracting economic benefits) but instead they view it in terms of possessing a collective and individual responsibility. The activities around a burial society involve as a bundle of social, cultural, and spiritual relationships rather than a bundle of economic rights. That is the reason no concept of 'private property' exists among the members nor is any desire to do so.

The individual and the collective

For many years there has been innovations being first introduced by individuals, to develop the practice of burial societies. Even those innovations were not seen as the work of individual per se but as social and collective efforts whose results are freely available to anyone who wants to use them. There is a strong tradition to freely exchange, both among its members and communities, their experiences, and successes. For example, individual members of burial societies will join two or three different societies, or help to create new ones within their communities, thereby strengthening knowledge among themselves. Community ways of organising and doing burial service have been passed on over decades to new generations. Today burial societies, for instance, are not just about "burial", but involves a variety of uses, savings, children education support, social tourism/entertainment, collective investment plans and so on. This common pool of experience and diversity has contributed immeasurably to the vast growth of burial societies today. In these activities we can learn new forms of sociality and variety of alternatives that may give insight our elaboration of the building of social capital in the present.

The capitalist offensive

But today burial societies are increasingly under threat and the power of communities is being undermined by this offensive, which seek to transform their anti-private profit spaces into the properties of corporations. The corporate cash nexus is happening in two ways. Firstly, policies governing insurance and banks are allowing the cash nexusing of burial societies and thus eroding their value as forms of self-empowerment and the sense co-operative identity they have build. Secondly, the insurance companies and commercial banks are being treated as the only form of association with "legal personality", while burial societies are considered "informal insurance groups" - themselves foreign words to many burial societies members.

In the first instance, we see attacks, which are aimed "de-socialising" burial societies. The space for collective ideas and practices gets reduced, while the space of indivisualisation of the relationships among members increases. The burial society loses its control over the service it provides, as insurance companies establish new different forms of burial societies (alias "group schemes", "funeral schemes" and so on) as new markets.

More and more financial companies corporations are adjusting their operations rapidly to the exigencies of the new market they suddenly discovered. Their anxiety to obtain profits, is leading them to impose their will on burial societies using financial lingo to establish the rules under which burial societies should operate and to increasingly shape their policies regarding benefits, payment, funeral procession, and decision making over finances.

Thus the absolute reign of financial capital is established, with burial societies being only appendages, auxiliary sources of private accumulation. Competition for better offers among autonomous burial societies raises its ugly head. Finally, this competition is extended to individuals themselves, through the individualisation of the benefits relationship: establishment of individual payment to the service, individual pay performance evaluations, permanent, selective granting of high benefits to others as a function of division; individualised funeral services programmes. The talk "self-control", "involvement" and self-management is heard more louder in the insurance companies boardrooms than in the weekend meetings of burial societies. All these weaken or abolish collective standards or solidarities, an important defining feature of a burial society.

Towards a movement of burial societies

Today we have to look to the state and our own power and beyond the market place to protect the rights of the 200 000 burial societies in South Africa. Empowering the burial societies with rights would enable their recovery again.

The greatest threat, however, is inside the burial societies themselves, who still today, remain isolated and fragmented. The challenge facing burial societies is to work together in order to create larger spaces of collective self-empowerment, to be protected and develop freely from capitalist exploitation of their resources and services.


Political Report to the Central Committee, 6-7 October 2000

The focus of this political report will be on questions relating to the challenges facing the Tripartite Alliance in the current period, its strengthening and laying a basis for overcoming some of the divergences within the Alliance. The Secretariat chose to focus on this issue for a number of related reasons.

The question of the Alliance and its functioning is essentially about consolidating and deepening the NDR through ensuring that the Alliance acts as a united and coherent force to face all the challenges. Sometimes there is a tendency to emphasise one aspect of the Alliance over others at different points in time, depending on the state of the Alliance at each moment. Whilst this is not necessarily wrong, and sometimes it is important to focus on each aspect of the Alliance and its functioning, these are sometimes not treated in an interrelated and holistic manner.

The issues that we normally deal with in the Alliance are divergences, convergences, internal processes of consultation, the relationship between the Alliance and government/ANC structures, the role of each Alliance partner, an Alliance programme and key policy questions in particular on the economic front. One of the problems we face in the Alliance is that sometimes we elevate process questions at the expense of the political content. In other instances discussion of key policy questions is not followed through to incorporate the necessary internal political processes required for effective co-ordination and oversight.

Another problem relates to many instances where the government tends to substitute for ANC structures in relating to the Allies. There is also the perennial problem of the lack of a co-ordinated Alliance programme, at all levels, outside of election campaigns.

An issue that keeps cropping up is that of the role of each of the Alliance partners. Whilst it is true that we should not assert our independence in a manner that loses sight of the interdependence of the Alliance partners in driving forward the NDR, there is another tendency to want to suppress the independence of each of the Alliance formations on grounds that we are all one movement. This has once more raised the question of multiple mandates. The debates in the last NEC of the ANC raised important questions on the issue of multiple mandates. But unfortunately this discussion tended to emphasise the question of a single united movement – as crucial as this is – at the expense of, and sometimes with great irritations about, the positions of the Alliance partners, in particular with the SACP.

The question of multiple mandates becomes sharper in instances where there are genuine differences in the Alliance. Whilst this issue of multiple mandates needs to be discussed, we should seek to turn our attention more to an honest and frank discussion of areas of differences. We must be absolutely careful that the issue of multiple mandates – challenging as it is – must not be used as an expedient or short-cut route to suppress real debate on areas of difference nor to question the integrity of the leadership of any of the Alliance components. Indeed there is a danger that such an outcome is possible, and as the SACP we must consistently seek to point out the incorrectness of this approach and seek to direct the Alliance towards real substantive issues and challenges to take forward the revolution. This is the real challenge of leadership of the Alliance at this point in time, and we intend taking up some of these issues later in this report today.

We must also highlight again an issue we raised in our address to the 7th COSATU Congress, the question of the relationship between sectoral struggles and the overall objectives of the revolutionary struggles. This is an issue we raised at the recent 10-a-side meeting of the Alliance, which is worth some consideration by this CC. There is a tendency sometimes to equate sectoral struggles with the objective of the revolution as a whole. But an equally problematic tendency is that of treating sectoral struggles as sectarian and not consistent with the overall objectives of the revolution as a whole, by virtue of being sectoral struggles. Our approach as the SACP and what we see as the challenge of leadership today is that of harnessing and welding together the various sectoral struggles, creativity and energies of our people in line with the overall objectives of our revolution. There can be no overall revolutionary objective independent and outside of the legitimate sectoral struggles of our people. And at the centre of the overall revolutionary objective should be the interests of the working class.

Let us quote Cde Oliver Tambo in this regard from his political report to the Kabwe Conference in 1985:

"We must act as a vanguard force, the repository of the collective experience of our revolutionary masses in their struggle for national liberation. We must be organised to act as such"

These were indeed wise words that we should not forget. The challenge of leadership today still remains that of harnessing the collective experience of our Alliance and our people, as there is no single corner in our movement that, only on its own, is best capable of advancing the NDR.

Given the above and the forthcoming ANC/SACP bilateral, what is necessary is the need to openly, freely and frankly discuss the alliance at this meeting, its tensions, relationships and the performance of the CC in advancing the Party programme. As the SACP we cannot go to the bilateral without this CC reflecting on these matters frankly and openly.

All the problems we refer to above have on the whole led to the multiplication of irritations about one another at the expense of tackling the fundamental questions on which there are genuine difference within the Alliance. Whilst we should discuss about problems in the Alliance, such a discussion should not fundamentally be driven by irritations, and as the SACP we have to continuously seek to rise above these and contribute towards a constructive leadership of the Alliance. But at the same time it is important that as the CC we must identify the source of these irritations and continuously point to their dangers and potential to erode the confidence of our people in the Alliance and each of its components.

As the SACP we are an independent political party of the working class whose ultimate objective is the building of a socialist South Africa. We however also reaffirm our commitment to the deepening of the NDR as the most direct route to socialism. But our commitment to the NDR is not solely due to the fact that it is merely a stepping stone to socialism. The meeting of the objectives of the NDR is important in itself as this will drastically transform South African society in favour of the majority of the people of our country, including the working class itself. There is no route to overcome the legacy of apartheid and transform society other than the route of the NDR.

This CC is also taking place in the wake of a successful Alliance ten-a-side meeting in September. Though this meeting did not overcome some of the key areas of divergences still facing the Alliance, it was a very open and frank meeting that sought to build on our strategic convergences and laid a basis for tackling the divergences. This meeting focused mainly on economic questions, in particular identifying the key areas of divergences in this regard. The meeting received an input from Cde Alec on some of the key aspects of government’s economic programme, including the question of an industrial strategy.

An important outcome of this meeting was that it underlined the necessity of linking our macro-economic policy to an industrial strategy, a matter that the SACP has been consistently raising. It also agreed that the ANC Economic Transformation Committee (ETC), joined by Alliance representatives, should flesh out the areas of divergences on economic issues as part of the preparations for a follow-up 10-a-side meeting to be held later this month.

The meeting also received a briefing and discussed the proposed labour amendments highlighting key areas of differences between the government and COSATU. These include Sunday work, the probation period, bargaining councils, power of the Minister to vary basic conditions of employment, Section 189 and 197 of the LRA which deal with retrenchments and transfer of companies respectively. There are negotiations taking place amongst the partners at NEDLAC, and the meeting noted some progress being made in this regard, though the issues are far from resolved.

The 10-a-side meeting also briefly discussed the question of relations within the Alliance, and proposed that these will form the subject of further discussions in the October meeting.

The 7th COSATU Congress

COSATU held its very successful 7th National Congress. The main message to that Congress was the importance of mass mobilisation, with the working class at the centre, for socio-economic transformation, particularly to struggle to build an economy oriented towards the betterment of the lives of ordinary people in our country. This message was generally well received, and our campaign for the transformation of the financial sector was located within this overall message of mobilising the working class for socio-economic transformation.

The political discussions at the Congress were generally within the framework of the NDR and the struggle for socialism. Congress covered a wide range of topics relevant to the workers, the working class and our people as a whole. One key feature of the Congress was that despite the enormous problems and challenges facing organised workers at this point in time, workers’ confidence has generally grown in terms of their capacity to face these challenges. In a way this growing workers’ confidence is a challenge to the SACP in terms of its own role in defending the interests of the working class and clearly articulating the political objectives of the working class in the current period.

The key resolutions from this Congress, which need some serious reflection on and around which we must develop SACP programmes and approaches, are: -

  • The building of a mass movement for socio-economic transformation, at the core of which is a proposed Conference to be jointly called by COSATU, SANCO and the SA NGO Coalition;
  • The convening of a Conference on Socialism. Given our long-standing decision to implement and convene a Socialist Commission and Socialist Forums with COSATU, the SACP should welcome this Conference as the spark around which to kick start the Socialist Commissions and Forums.
  • The COSATU Programme of Action and Mass Mobilisation against job losses and labour law reforms which has massive implications for the debate on economic transformation and the operation of the Alliance; and
  • The establishment of a Chris Hani Memorial Foundation.

In addition to the above, the Congress also endorsed the SACP Campaign for the Transformation of the Financial Sector. Already many affiliates are enmeshed in this campaign in all the provinces. But a problem has arisen where the banking union, SASBO, seemingly has problems with the resolution and has fears about the campaign’s implications for job losses. In this regard, COSATU is engaging SASBO and the SACP must also, through COSATU, engage SASBO.

The September/October ANC NEC

As alluded to above this ANC NEC discussed the question of the Alliance very extensively. A number of issues were raised about how the ANC understands the roles of each of its Alliance partners and what it expects from each. The question of multiple mandates between NEC and CC members was raised and certain concerns raised about how NEC members who are also leaders of the SACP should conduct themselves, particularly in the public spheres. It was as a result of this discussion that an ANC/SACP bilateral will be convened soon to discuss this and other matters of common interest. It is important for this CC to reflect on this matter in order to clarify our own positions as part of preparing for this bilateral. What are the implications of the ANC NEC statement for the SACP, its autonomy, role and programme and the alliance as a whole?


Another major area of discussion in the ANC NEC was the issue of HIV/AIDS and how the SACP and COSATU have publicly espoused their positions on this issue. Because of the importance of this issue, here we should devote some time to reflect on our position and work as the SACP on HIV/AIDS.

Following and even preceding the 1999 Strategy Conference resolution on HIV/AIDS, many branches, districts and provinces of the SACP have been involved in many and varied HIV/AIDS campaigns focusing on prevention, education, awareness, access to services and access to affordable HIV/AIDS treatment.

The SACP’s year 2000 programme identified the following as focus areas on HIV/AIDS work: -

  • HIV/AIDS awareness to be integrated into all our activities
  • Actively link up with NGOs and participate in their campaigns on HIV/AIDS
  • Highlight and struggle against discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Focus and campaign around cheap and accessible drugs

Important awareness and education work is being done in the North-West, and KZN party structures are working closely with the Treatment Action Campaign and other HIV/AIDS organisations. It is not yet clear what impact this SACP work at these levels has on the broader HIV/AIDS interventions of local and provincial governments and HIV/AIDS organisations.

The SACP is also represented in the National Aids Consortium, which is the largest HIV/AIDS network in the country. We have also raised HIV/AIDS throughout COSATU’s job loss campaign, particularly highlighting the need to integrate HIV/AIDS campaign into the work of workplace health and safety committees.

The SACP fully supported the Global March for Access to Affordable Treatment, which was held in Durban during July 2000. In addition the PB has also set up an HIV/AIDS Advisory Desk to help the SACP consolidate its approach and work on HIV/AIDS. This desk is due to report to the PB before the end of the year.

Nevertheless, as the SACP we still need to consolidate our HIV/AIDS work and campaigns through a thorough discussion on the political economy of HIV/AIDS, poverty and HIV/AIDS, the political economy of access to affordable treatment, an SACP approach and programme on the improvement of the public health system and its links to HIV/AIDS and the review of government policies on HIV/AIDS.

In short, after receiving reports and request in respect of the above the PB has consolidated the SACP position on HIV/AIDS to the following key areas: -

  • The SACP does not question the link between HIV and AIDS.
  • The SACP is extremely concerned about the social, economic and health implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and calls for urgent action by all stakeholders to address the epidemic and the problems it poses.
  • The SACP argues for a human rights based and holistic response which dynamically links prevention, access to information, awareness, care, support, access to social services, management and access to treatment.
  • The SACP supports the struggle for affordable treatment and access to basic and essential life-saving drugs for opportunistic and other common HIV/AIDS related infections. Barriers to affordable treatment are the drug companies and the cost of drugs.
  • The SACP has not sufficiently studied the complex issues about anti-retroviral HIV/AIDS drugs, beyond those drugs which are essential, life-saving and aimed at fighting opportunistic HIV/AIDS infections. The SACP has set up an HIV/AIDS Desk, which is exploring this question and other related questions and will report in due course.
  • The SACP HIV/AIDS Desk will also address the following issues - the political economy of HIV/AIDS, poverty and HIV/AIDS, the political economy of access to affordable treatment, an SACP approach and programme on the improvement of the public health system and its links to HIV/AIDS and the review of government policies on HIV/AIDS – as outlined above.

In addition to these perspectives, the SACP also used the opportunity of the COSATU Congress to question the role that the media has been playing in the last period. Whatever clumsiness there has been from the side of government on HIV/AIDS, this cannot begin to justify the cynical way in which much of the media have prioritised getting a sensational headline over informing, rather than confusing, the public about the pandemic.

The SACP must contribute to developing a strategy whereby the alliance gravitates towards a unified position and programme on HIV/AIDS.

Let us then turn to some of the key questions about economic development and economic transformation that we need to take forward within the context of the Alliance and taking forward the struggle for transformation in our country.

Economic Policy Developments in the recent period – an overview and assessment

We believe that there is a broadening commitment to engage in constructive discussion on reviewing and developing effective economic policy, capable of sustaining growth, development, job creation and poverty reduction. There are many indicators of this, in particular the constructive intra-alliance processes, that are beginning to materialise (see the separate summary document of some of the decisions). But this willingness is much wider than the alliance.

These encouraging signs have an objective underpinning. Many of the calculations of existing policy are being disappointed. Growth for 2000 is extremely modest, and is being revised downward. There have not been major flows of FDI, in fact DI has declined over the past two years, notwithstanding the fact that the macro "fundamentals" are in place. Increasingly it is evident that foreign investors respond to growth, rather than initiating it. A strategy based on winning favour through a "feel good" message has been seriously dented by a vicious external attack on the South African government. More worrying, inequality is deepening, job losses continue unabated, and there is even some questioning of the Stats SA claim that job losses in the formal sector are at least being compensated for by new if often worse jobs in the informal sector.

It is imperative that the SACP greatly improves its capacity to engage constructively and intelligently with the unfolding policy processes. As a contribution to this ongoing challenge, we propose to introduce a broad overview and assessment of three recent major economic policy documents:

  • "Developing the S African Economy. The role of the Department of Trade and Industry - Draft Paper for Discussion by Members of the Economic Transformation Committee of the ANC NEC" (13th September, 2000)
  • "An Accelerated Agenda Towards the Restructuring of State Owned Enterprises – Policy Framework" (Ministry of Public Enterprises, August 2000)
  • The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Commission’s Interim Report

The ETC paper

The draft discussion paper prepared for the extended ETC of September 13 can be seen, partly but obviously not only, as a consequence of the SACP’s persistent calls, over some two years, for an alliance elaboration of an industrial policy strategy. This discussion paper emerges out of the NGC process, and also out of discussion and debate at the recent Alliance 10-a-side. For all of these reasons, the SACP needs to express support for and we need to engage actively with the ongoing processes around the paper.

The main features of the paper are:

  • Its implicit, and occasionally explicit, call for a "new phase" in economic policy-making. It speaks of a first phase – 1994/6 to the present - and begins to envisage a new, second phase.
  • It characterises the first phase of industrial policy as being essentially concerned with "adjusting to world markets", of countering a perceived threat of "de-industrialisation". This has involved, essentially, major tariff reductions, to align our industries more with international realities, and some supply side measures, but only to those industries/enterprises that showed a capacity for being competitive. The paper admits that this has been a painful process, and in its verbal presentation at the 10-a-side, it was also said that this first phase was hampered by the inability to apply, simultaneously, counter-cyclical measures through a major infrastructural programme. This was made impossible by the weak state of the un-restructured parastatals at the time.
  • While the "new" or second phase remains somewhat general still, it is essentially centred on a manufacturing strategy, building on the resource advantages of our country and region. It includes, therefore, major emphasis on the beneficiation of products (both mineral and organic/agricultural). This involves "extending the production line" (upstream and downstream), and this calls for much greater emphasis on economic infrastructure (within our country and region), and the integration of the "new economy" into our manufacturing strategy – i.e. the application of information and communication technology into our production processes – rather than seeing it as some separate ("new") economy. The logic of this approach is to integrate and link large-scale, with small-scale operations; and job intensive activities (for eg. cotton production in Zambia) and hi-tech manufacturing (for eg. hi-tech textile plants in SA), rather than seeing these as alternatives.
  • The paper remains quite vague about the leveraging of investment for all of the above. It does, however, make some important points. It notes, for instance, that while foreign investment is crucial, "in the world economy the major source of investment is overwhelmingly from domestic sources as opposed to new inflows of external investment". (It does not, however, really examine fully the consequences of such an observation – but it opens space for a much more rigorous inquiry about the leveraging and strategic orientation of domestic investment).

This paper and its elaboration are still very much at the exploratory stage. The 10-a-side mandated the Alliance Secretariat plus cdes Erwin, Radebe, Manuel and Max Sisulu to constitute a task group to take the process forward. In this regard the SACP CC may wish to consider some of the following:

  • Should we recommend the extension of this group?
  • Are we happy with the general direction of the draft?
  • Should we consider accessing technically skilled assistance, and how best to do this? As the Party? With our alliance partners?

The challenge is, we suggest, to ensure that the imperative of introducing bold and qualitatively new features to our economic industrial policy are embraced. This realisation is unevenly present in the paper as it stands. There is sometimes an understandable tendency to be defensive about the last few years, but this can hamper a clear statement of what the difficulties are, and it can hamper the realisation that we cannot simply continue with business as usual.

  • How does the Party facilitate this, rather than block such a development?

Restructuring State Owned Assets – Policy Framework

The last CC of the SACP welcomed the consultative process that had preceded the publication of this document. We also welcomed the continued commitment to the NFA, which, in effect, commits government to continue to consult at a sectoral and enterprise level as the restructuring process continues. We should continue to maintain these positions.

However, we need now, as a Party, to engage much more rigorously with the strategic thrust and with the emerging detail of the policy framework position. In this regard there are, unfortunately, serious shortcomings in the framework and emerging detail. These include:

A serious fudging of different paradigms, and a tendency to present what has happened over the past six years, and what is now required, as all part of a seamless and unconstested continuity. This is nowhere more apparent than on pages 20-21 of the document where the key objectives of various policy documents (the RDP 1994, GEAR 1996, the NFA 1996, and the IMCC Lekgotla 1999) are tabulated. The conclusion that the document draws from this tabulation is that "the table shows a remarkable consistency among the main objectives of restructuring". In fact, even a cursory glance at the document’s own table tells a very different story about priorities (the RDP "meeting basic needs", the IMCC "mobilising private sector capital and expertise"). One or the other priority may be the correct one, there will certainly be linkages between different priorities. But it simply does not lay the basis for an honest and clear discussion if everything is muddled together and presented as a single, seamless whole. This tendency in the "Restructuring of SOEs" document can be contrasted with the somewhat more honest depiction in the "Industrial Policy" document, which, for instance, concedes that GEAR was introduced after a "qualitative change in perceptions". Until we start to discuss clearly the advantages and disadvantages of different priorities we will never be able to have an honest and constructive assessment of policy. The trouble with this is that it then creates doubts about the actual commitment to some of the general principles in the opening chapters.

These concerns are then deepened when a more detailed development of restructuring proposals for the big four parastatals starts to be elaborated in the latter part of the document. Notwithstanding commitments to the RDP, the NFA and to a developmental state, the latter chapters are narrowly focused on restructuring the parastatals into stand-alone operations, focused on "core businesses", and where the key objective is "competitiveness". There is very little, if any, elaboration of a public mandate for public enterprises. They are treated as if they were no different from private sector profit-seeking operations.

For instance, the section on restructuring in the transport sector begins by stating that there is an "international trend" to liberalisation, privatisation and concessioning out to the private sector. Japan and New Zealand are given as examples of recent transport privatisations, and Argentine rail is cited as an example of the "global trend" to concessioning out. The section then simply assumes that there is such a global trend, that it must be the right way to go, and that in SA that is what we must apply.

Nowhere does it ask whether our rail systems and our rail/transport challenges are remotely the same as Japan, NZ or, for that matter, Argentine. Do we not have huge problems of underdevelopment? Of skewed allocation of infrastructure? And can privatisation, deregulation or concessioning out make any dent in these challenges?

This section of the paper cites the 1996 White Paper on National Transport Policy, which argued that in the past government had played a dominant role as a regulator of bureaucratic detail, as a provider of infrastructure, and as a transport operator, but it had been weak on policy formulation and strategic planning. The intention, now, is to reverse this, to empower government to plan and regulate, but drastically reduce involvement in operations and provision.

Are things that simple? Does ownership, or part ownership, not give the state the capacity to plan and act strategically?

The document, we believe, while committing itself to positive processes, is confusing and strategically it is moving in wrong directions.

How does the SACP engage with the ongoing restructuring debate? What has happened to our task group on a developmental state?

The BEE Commission report

The BEE Commission tabled its interim report to a national conference this past weekend. While individual SACP comrades made some inputs into the report, as a party we did not engage effectively with the report’s development.

The report has three potentially positive features:

  • It seeks, in its introductory sections, to greatly broaden the concept of BEE, seeing it not only as redressing ownership and management imbalances through the promotion and enrichment of a new black elite. The report calls for a conception of BEE that embraces all black people, as individuals, households and communities, as potential owners and managers, but also as producers, workers and consumers. It seeks to link BEE organically to the NDR. This endeavour, very much in line with what the SACP has been saying for many years, is to be welcomed and taken further. However, the detailed proposals in the document then all revert back to measures to advance black owners and senior managers.
  • The report calls for an active, developmental state. This, again, is certainly in line with SACP policy. The proposal reflects the ongoing vulnerability of emerging black entrepreneurs, and their dependence on the democratic state.
  • Related to this last point, the report proposes, in particular, implementing a prescribed assets approach to the financial sector. This latter proposal could connect up with our banks campaign. However, again, a good proposal, is flawed by the tendency for this measure to be narrowly linked to the class interests of a black economic elite, rather than having a broader developmental agenda.

At the National Conference last weekend, leading government ministers took a fairly tough line, underlining the narrow class interests of much of the report, and underlining the fact that, while there has been some reduction in the gross income differential between whites and blacks, the gap between rich blacks and poor blacks has grown dramatically. These are points the SACP has been making. However, we need to ensure that government’s rejection of some of the BEE Com proposals are rejections of the narrow class interest sometimes reflected in the report, and not rejections of an active developmental state, or of the further investigation of some kind of prescribed assets approach.

The weaknesses of the BEE Com report reflect the ideological inability of the black bourgeoisie to constitute itself as an hegemonic ideological force within the broader NLM. That does not mean, however, that it will not still have a dominant influence. How should the SACP engage with the ongoing BEE Com work? How do we make a constructive input into the process?

In discussing the ETC document, the ROSA Policy Framework, the BEE report and economic transformation as a whole, we need to base the discussion on the foundations of a new economic growth and development path being an overarching, integrated industrial policy which is mainly premised on a conscious, state-driven domestic infra-structural investment programme. This should be the basis for achieving a sunrise strategic breakthrough .

On the restructuring of state assets, how do we engage the Policy Framework so as to ensure that we keep education, health, water, municipal services, central banking, development finance, transport, infrastructure (including roads, railways, pipelines, and telecommunications), electricity supply/Energy including liquid fuel, mineral rights and housing remain in public hands? What would be the exact role of private capital in each area?

Central in such a strategy is also the transformation of the architecture of the (private and public) financial sector of our country so as to unlock and release resources for transformation. The role of the state includes legislative power around community reinvestment, co-operative banks, co-operatives and directing public financial institutions.

How do we achieve a common perspective in the alliance on the transformation of the financial sector? What should be our common alliance programme in this area?

On a broader level, what kind of tactical agreements, within and outside the alliance, do we need to facilitate a strategic advance towards our strategic objective - a better life for all? How do we drive a coherent perspective so as to undo the strategic stalemate in the alliance? How do we, as an alliance and the country, achieve the sunrise strategic breakthrough and break the back of the development crisis?


From the Sino-Soviet conflict to socialism with Chinese characteristics

By Z. Pallo Jordan

This is the final article in a series of 3 articles which appeared in the last 2 issues of the African Communist.

When the differences between the CPC leadership the CPSU erupted in 1960, the Soviet Union unilaterally withdrew all assistance from China. A profound sense of betrayal took hold among the CPC leadership who felt the CPSU put the boot in when China was still grappling with the problems that resulted from the "great leap forward".

The Sino-Soviet ideological dispute was a tangled mesh of divergent perspectives on economic development and international Communist strategy, overlain and intertwined with inter-state conflicts and personality differences. It unfolded simultaneously on all these plains, escalating out of the control of either side precisely because neither would admit its material undergirding. Despite two successive attempts to compose their differences, in 1960 and 1963 respectively, by October 1964 the CPC and the CPSU regarded each other as mutually hostile, rival centres vying for leadership over the world Communist movement. For well-nigh two decades the two parties engaged in extremely bitter polemics, filled with hyperbole and invective. During the early 1970s these degenerated into armed clashes along the Soviet-Chinese border.

China began to break out of her international isolation during the 1960s thanks to a number of factors. Among these was the arrival on the world stage of a number of independent African countries during the first half of the decade. With a few exceptions, all sought relations with China and supported her claims in the UNO. The second was China's acquisition of nuclear weapons. (Three closely related events occurred during October of 1964. The first of these was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, deliberately provoked by the US as a pretext to bomb targets in the DR Vietnam. One outcome of this provocation was the removal of Nikita Kruschov from his post as General Secretary of the CPSU. Kruschov had invested a great deal of his personal prestige in arriving at an accommodation with the USA and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident seemed to suggest that his efforts had been totally misguided. The second outcome was the detonation of an nuclear device by China on 16 October 1994.) The third factor was the growing distance between China and the Soviet Union, which some western powers saw as an opportunity to further weaken the bloc of socialist states.

But the most drastic blow was a counter-revolutionary coup, led by General Suharto, which resulted in the destruction of the Communist Party of Indonesia during 1965. The Communist Party of Indonesia had been the largest Communist Party outside the socialist bloc since the mid-1950s. After decades of an extremely troubled relationship with the nationalist party, led by Sukarno, the Communists ad managed to forge an alliance - NASAKOM (Nationalism, Islam and Communists) - with itself as an important partner during the 1960s. Using Islam as legitimation, Suharto assisted by the CIA, staged a coup, arrested virtually every Indonesian Communist, executed thousands and imprisoned literally millions in concentration camps reminiscent of Buchenwald. Sukarno himself was deposed and a junta, headed by Suharto, governed the country until 1998. Suharto's coup resulted in a radical change in the balance of forces in east Asia. Indonesia had until then been a pillar of the anti-imperialist movement and a staunch regional ally of China. Suharto not only broke the alliance with China, but also took Indonesia in a pro-imperialist direction to the accompaniment of brutal internal repression.

The Sino-Soviet dispute thus led to a number of unanticipated outcomes, some of which compounded Sino-Soviet relations. As China achieved wider acceptance among western countries, so too did Chinese diplomacy take on the character of a conventional nation-state, pursuing its own self-interest. China's relations with other countries and with revolutionary movements throughout the world began to reflect this "real politik" approach as well. This became particularly pronounced after February 1972 when the USA finally recognised China, signalled by an official visit to Beijing by President Nixon.

From 1967 to 1999

Deng Xiaoping is credited with the aphorism, "It matters little if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice!", expressing a hard-nosed pragmatism in opposition to Mao's insistence on privileging political orientation. During the heated political struggles that ensued in China after 1950, but especially after 1967, this earned him the unenviable title of "capitalist-roader" - implying that he ( and those in the leadership who supported his views) wished to employ the economic instruments of capitalism in constructing a socialist society. The "Cultural Revolution", incited by Mao in 1967, concerned itself with ".... the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns - arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought, ..." Its aim, according to its protagonists, was to transform all these in a socialist direction. Closer inspection of the actual movement it inspired and its participants suggests that it entailed conflicts within the CPC leadership. During the intra-party struggle one faction, led by Mao, was able to harness his prestige to mobilise the youth, the peasants and other elements in society who felt alienated from the CPC leadership, against his opponents in the leadership.

Literally thousands of loyal CPC cadres who differed with Mao and his supporters were demoted from their posts in the party or the government of the P.R.C. and rusticated to "learn from the peasants." Some, like Liu Shaoqi who led the opposition to Mao, were imprisoned after being denounced as "capitalist roaders". With all the excesses committed during the years of the "Cultural Revolution", these pale when compared with the blood purges that took place in the Soviet Union and in eastern Europe under Stalin. China was spared the spectacle of show trials of "enemies of the people" with their absurd "confessions" of treason and treachery. At the height of the "Cultural Revolution" an obscene personality cult around the figure of Mao Zhedong, reminiscent of the worst features of the Stalin cult in the Soviet Union of the 1930s and 40s, was encouraged.

After six years of turmoil, during which the leadership of the CPC was shaken up and almost dismembered, a semblance of order was brought back in 1973. Normality gathered real momentum after Mao's death in 1976. Ably managed by a group of CPC veterans who had survived the political upheavals of the previous ten years, the elevation of Deng Xiaoping became its chief symbol. Deng thence came to dominate the Chinese political landscape until his death in 1997.

Deng was the author of the "Four Modernisations", to "transform China into a dynamic and prosperous country" by the year 2000. Such transformation had, however, have to take place in the context of certain new realities. One of these was a direct consequence of the revolution. China has undergone radical demographic change since 1949. The "iron rice bowl" had resulted in a Chinese population that was healthier, that lived longer and a growing proportion of which had access to higher education, to free time and to discretionary funds. There was consequently a leap in population growth between 1960 and 1970 when some 250 million people were born. The CPC government responded by imposing very tough birth control policies during the 1970s, with the policing of the fertility of women devolved to neighbourhood committees, the work brigade and the factory floor through peer pressure.

The second was that during the period of Mao's ascendancy after 1967, economic growth had centred in the countryside where the rate of industrialization and production for export had outstripped that of the cities. A huge rural electrification programme had also been executed and resources had been redirected to the countryside, sometimes at the expense of the cities.

The third was the China's changed status in international affairs. After normalization of relations with the USA in 1971, China was admitted to the UNO and became a member of its Security Council.

From 1949 until the late 1970s population mobility in China was controlled with the aim of developing the backward interior and frontier lands and establishing a stable basis for the planned development of urban areas. The "hukou" or household registration system was established as the means of restricting entry to the cities and of controlling unwanted migration. As such the register was a precondition for the planned allocation of labour. It functioned to keep the peasants on the land, and to guarantee the supply of labour in the cities. In both the Soviet Union and China the planned economy was based on the stabilization of the labour force.

The official workforce in cities and towns is estimated to be 114 million, of which 76.5% work in state owned enterprises. The total industrial labour force grew from 60.9 million in 1978 to reach 96.6 million in 1988. The figures for rural non-agricultural workers in non-state firms grew by 65 million from 1978-1987 to reach 87 million.

Confronted with modernity through word of mouth and the mass media, the peasant youth became restive. They strained at the leash of the migration controls. A survey of students at an agricultural middle school in 1979, revealed that only 6 % wanted to become farmers and yet 90 % were likely to end up working on the land. If that sample is taken as typical, China's young people during the last two decades have been eager to migrate to the cities.

Deng's reforms were designed to address these momentous societal changes without imposing new obligations on the state. The market was seen as the device to employ. In terms of the reforms, all enterprises would be compelled to compete with each other, with respect to cost effectiveness, output, quality and efficiency. Deng inspired China's opening up to the rest of the world, attracting investment from capitalist countries through joint ventures, abolition of the Communes and allowing peasants to re-acquire title deeds to their land. The immediate impact was flourishing rural output which generated savings and capital.

As a result of Deng's reforms the cities have faced a huge influx of migrants often young and unemployed. With so many people on the move, China has acquired a floating population. A western observer remarked "In a situation in which more and more migrants are flowing into the cities, problems of shelter and housing are becoming especially serious. Parts of some of China's larger cities are beginning to take on the appearance of other large Third World cities with large squatter colonies of self-built shacks and shanties."

This phenomenal growth has not, however, been uncomplicated. The CPC has begun dismantling the cradle to grave welfare benefits enjoyed by working people. Among the market devices being employed is that of retrenchments . The CPC government wishes to control the influx into the cities so that it could be used to provide a reserve army of labour. As the head of the Central Party School Ni Dinghua admitted in 1988 "The existence of a reserve army of labour will enliven job competition and stimulate labourers initiative . This will help to better adapt workers to the needs of the social economy."

Millions of Chinese workers have consequently lost their jobs. A survey of 25 factory directors carried out in 1988 revealed that five-sixths of them had discharged workers and that although the sackings were only of between 1 to 30 workers, the interviewees would have preferred "complete freedom " to sack ; and 22 of the sample would dismiss an average of 18 % of the labour force if only they had "complete freedom!"

Instead of this capitalist "freedom" to sack, the directors interviewed expressed gloomy images of labour market reform. On the one hand a few raised fears about social stability given that the unemployed," would have no means to survive" , but a larger proportion mentioned the pressures that the managers would come under to reinstate sacked workers, both from supervisors and from the workers themselves.

Wenzhou, a city of just over half a million inhabitants in Zhejiang Province, was held up as a national model for economic development in 1986-7. Privately owned enterprises were the dynamic force behind its economic growth. By 1988 non state enterprises were producing 41% of industrial output value and undertook two thirds of passenger and freight transport.

The distinction between private and collectively owned enterprises all over China has become blurred, with a fifth of privately owned enterprises registered as collectively owned in order to avoid high taxation rates.

Many big privately owned enterprises 'bought a red hat' by registering as a collective in order to pay less tax, secure access to subsidised inputs and to conceal their capitalist nature. In order to be designated as "collective" an enterprise must distribute a minimum 10% of its assets to staff, or part of the profits as bonuses. In Liaoning Province in 1988 a quarter of private enterprises were found to have been camouflaged with collective or even state owned status. In suburban Shanghai, thirty percent of big private enterprises were registered as collectively run. In model Wenzhou in 1987 over half of all rural collective enterprises were found to be in fact private firms.

In the meanwhile household industries have mushroomed based on low level technology. In these the market determines the price of labour power. Sweatshops, accompanied by Dickensian living and working conditions, have re-appeared in China. Conditions in one such, a button factory in Qiaotou near Wenzhou, are described thus by one western observer "...dingy workshops work a twelve hour day with female child labourers receiving wages of RMB 5 a day. The employees work a seven-day week with no breaks during the day, and are forced to endure a primitive, noisy, dark and unhealthy working environment. There are no trade unions here to ensure the observance of even the most basic work conditions."

He continues "At a meter factory in Liushi it was apparent that an industrial accident had caused eye injuries to several workers . When the supervisor was within earshot, it was obvious that they (the workers) were too frightened to tell us what had happened " ...." exploitation was severe, merciless , and unameliorated by protection from the law or any form of organized labour ."

The entrepreneurs are usually poorly educated and once the profits begin to roll in they often indulge themselves instead of investing their profits in their business.

The social status of women in the workplace has been undermined by profit and loss calculation. Women in the labour market face greater pressure to accept traditional role definitions in the workplaces, on grounds of their special physiology as women. Women are no longer regarded, as they were during the Cultural Revolution, when in official rhetoric, they were considered at least as able to do any thing that men can do. Managerial autonomy over employment decisions has given managers carte blanche to practise open or concealed systematic discrimination in employment. Managers explain their attitude by saying that omen will get married have children, and therefore make welfare demands and require labour protection.

Even in township enterprises, a majority of which are defined as collectively owned, and employ 105 million people, wages are most often decided by their managers. The working conditions of employees are currently quite low, working hours are not regulated and there is no medical or retirement insurance for most of them.

Private agriculture too has not been a uniform success story. Some peasants have prospered while others were ruined. The system of "family responsibility" reversed many of the gains made by Chinese women by reinforcing the conversatism of the peasantry and driving women back into the home.

In the 1950s and the '60s the government of China addressed the inequalities between rural and urban areas through the transfer of resources from the better endowed regions. These limited the disparities somewhat. Spatial inequalities and disequilibria have been allowed to increase as a result of Deng's reforms with devastating effects on the poorest provinces and localities. Extreme poverty in China is a predominantly rural phenomenon, heavily concentrated in mountainous regions. A study conducted in 1991 found that regions occupied by national minorities were disproportionately represented among those classified as poor. According to the Chinese government, poverty is centred in the west of the country, in rural areas and concentrated among the minorities. This makes for a highly combustible combination when one bears in mind the continuing tensions in Tibet and the dangers that could arise along the frontier with the former Soviet republics.

Deng however took fright when the spectre of political pluralism re-appeared in the shape of the "Democracy Wall" in 1979. At first he offered hesitant support to the movement. Then he turned on it and ordered the arrest of a number of the movement's leaders.

The destabilising stresses caused by the economic reforms he inspired reached a crescendo in the late 1980s, resulting in the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989 in Tien-an-mien square . Deng parted company with his chief supporter in the CC of the CPC, Zhao Ziyang, on how to respond to the challenge and reputedly oversaw the ruthless suppression of the demonstrations. As in 1958 and again in 1979 he proved unwilling to countenance any relaxation of the authoritarian system the CPC had imposed under very different circumstances in 1949.

China has continued on path to modernize its economy hewn by Deng these problems notwithstanding. By 1990 a Stock Exchange had been opened in Shanghai and the number of special economic zones established along the coast had increased. Spurred by investment from abroad and the transfer of technology, China attained the world's highest growth rate during the mid-1990s. Many believe that it will be the largest and most dynamic economy during the 21st century.

In Closing, not a Conclusion

The People's Republic of China at age 50 represents an amazing and remarkable paradox. China is the earth's most populous country but is by no means its most powerful, let alone its wealthiest. Its economy is ranked seventh in the world, ahead of Brazil, but behind Italy. It accounts for 3.5% of the world GNP which compares unfavourably with the US at 25.6%. Though she has a huge army, China today has pared down military spending to 4.5% of global defence expenditure. Stacked up against the USA's 33.9%, China obviously is not entertaining any ideas of war.

The large and medium state-owned enterprises in China number 11 000. While constituting only 2.9 % of all industrial enterprises, they produce nearly half of China's industrial output and pay 67 % of all tax revenue. These industries are concentrated in the energy, transport, steel, chemicals and heavy machine sectors. State owned industries with a workforce of over 500 account for 41 % of all industrial employees, produce 52 % of the gross value of industrial output and account for 70 % of China's fixed assets. The state-owned sector thus still dominates China's economy. But, as we have seen, a number of other forms of ownership now co-exist with the state-owned sector. Some of these are privately owned, others are joint-ventures between private owners and the state - this is especially applicable to foreign private enterprise , yet others are collectively owned - by cities, provinces, towns, townships, mass organisations, the trade unions, etc.

The explanation one hears for all this is that China's principal challenge today is to develop its productive forces to the highest possible level, using every available means necessary. There is merit in that argument. There is evidence to indicate that the market mechanisms have resulted in greater prosperity. The appearance of township, village and other industries, especially in the coastal regions, has led to diversification and put wealth at the disposal of more people. Export-led production and remittances from rural youth employed in towns and urban areas have also assisted their home villages and raised family incomes. As the economy expands, many more rural people now have income-earning opportunities. Areas that have access to transport arteries and the railroads have been the greatest beneficiaries. By the mid 1990s township and village enterprises produced 50% of China's industrial output and had generated 120 million jobs.

Chinese officials will also tell you that all these reforms are tentative, and that they could change if the desired results are not the outcome. There is much room to debate that proposition. Inequality - be it between town and countryside, between one region and another, between different social strata - produces its own momentum. Unless social policy can check and contain this, the likelihood of it spinning out of control remains great.

Thanks to the revolution China has been transformed from the weak, backward, traditional society into thriving, modern, industrial nation. That is the achievement which generations of Chinese will doubtlessly remember the CPC for. The unanswered question remains when will China become a democracy and what form that democracy will assume. It is only when the working people of China have substantive access to political power that the achievements of the revolution will be guaranteed.


Forward to a people's democracy - India's path to socialism

Prakash Karat summarises the Programme of the Communist Part of India (Marxist) adopted at its Special Conference held in Thiruvananthapuram from October 20 to 23, 2000. This article originally appeared in the Ganashakti newspaper – the organ of the CPI(M).

THERE was a three-month inner-party discussion on the draft of the updated programme of the CPI(M) prior to the special conference held to adopt it. As a result of these discussions 5,725 amendments and around 530 suggestions to the draft were sent to the Central Committee. This is the highest ever number of amendments received on a major Party document so far. It showed the wide and intense interest generated within the Party on updating the strategic document of the Party.

Congress enriches the Party Programme

The Central Committee prepared a report on the amendments received, which was submitted to the Party conference. Out of the pre-conference amendments, the Central Committee report had accepted 160 amendments after grouping similar amendments. If all the individual amendments are taken into account, this would number around 400. After discussion in the conference, the delegates submitted a further 239 amendments to the draft.

Out of these amendments proposed by the delegates, 28 were accepted. The incorporation of the 168 amendments in these two stages has enriched the draft, which was finally unanimously adopted.

The Party ranks are familiar with the draft document which was released by the Central Committee in May and which was discussed at all levels in the Party. It will be useful for the entire Party to understand what are the main amendments, which were accepted, and what were the types of amendments received which showed the various trends in the discussions within the Party.

The first chapter of the Programme is an Introduction to the communist movement in the country. Among the few amendments accepted were the addition of the peasant struggles in North Malabar and the anti-feudal struggles of the tribal people of Tripura, to highlight the role of the Party in the anti-feudal struggles in the pre-independence period. There were a number of amendments which wanted more details about the history of the Party or evaluating some aspect or other of the Party's line at various junctures. Most of these amendments were not accepted as the purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief overview of the role of the Communist Party in the country for the newer generation of Communist Party members and those attracted to the communist movement.

In the same chapter an amendment accepted related to the role played by the Left-led governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. In the section dealing with the post-independence role of the Party, the contribution made by the Left-led governments in the sphere of land reforms, decentralisation of powers under the panchayati raj system and defence of the rights of the working people have been added.

In the second chapter, an important amendment accepted pertains to the contradiction between imperialism and the third world countries. In listing out the major social contradictions, the central contradiction is defined as the one between imperialism and socialism. Alongside, the contradiction between imperialism and the third world countries is now stated as coming to the forefront in order to take into account the aggravation of this contradiction after the neo-liberal global offensive. While, theoretically, any one of the four major contradictions can intensify and come to the fore, in the present period the contradiction between imperialism and the third world countries is coming to the forefront.

The updated programme deals with the state of world capitalism and imperialism today. The section updating the developments in world capitalism in the last few decades generated considerable discussion. It was natural that a number of amendments would come which seek to analyse and delineate the features of contemporary world capitalism and imperialism. The draft provided a more realistic assessment of how world capitalist system operates and new instruments of exploitation used by imperialism. It gave up the earlier simplistic understanding about the capitalist crisis and breakdown of the system.

While capitalism has been able to utilise the scientific and technological advances to develop the productive forces, the private character of the appropriation of the surplus as against the increasing socialisation of production creates an inherent contradiction within the system. An amendment has been accepted which states that "The fundamental contradiction inherent in capitalism between the ever-growing socialisation of production and the increasingly private appropriation of surplus has become more acute."

In the third chapter, on capitalist path of development in India, two amendments have been accepted in the section explaining the changed situation with liberalisation affecting the agriculture sector and the opening up of Indian agriculture to the global capitalist market. One amendment incorporates the far-reaching effects on the agrarian economy and the peasantry with the removal of all quantitative restrictions on imports under the WTO regime. The second amendment notes the entry of multinational corporations in agricultural production through seeds and other sectors.

Formulations strengthened

In Chapter IV, on foreign policy, there was a broad agreement on the formulations made. The only amendment which was accepted in this sections relates to the BJP government's pro-imperialist foreign policy. This has been strengthened further by stating that the "The BJP regime has brought about a major shift by advocating a policy of becoming a junior partner of the United States."

In Chapter V in State Structure and Democracy, the section on secularism has been further strengthened by incorporating an amendment on the need to counter "the danger of fascist trends gaining ground based on religious communalism."

In Chapter VI which sets out the programme of People's Democracy, the only significant amendment to the draft provisions has been the one relating to industry, trade and services. The original provision in 1964 prescribed only one form of state intervention, i.e. nationalisation or state take-over of Indian and foreign monopolies. The updated draft prepared by the Central Committee had stated that steps would be taken to eliminate monopolies and break up the concentration of assets, both Indian and foreign, in different sectors like industry, finance, trade and services. A number of amendments in the pre-conference discussions wanted to restore the nationalisation of Indian and foreign monopolies as a means to eliminate them. The draft programme explains the context in which India will have to develop its economy when the world capitalist system is dominant. The measures to be taken to promote public ownership and to make the public sector acquire a dominating position are spelt out.

In taking steps to break the stranglehold of the Indian and foreign monopolies, the measures suggested are not only of one type which is nationalisation or state take-over. Various forms of state intervention at different stages can be envisaged which will play a role in the transitional period of people's democracy in eliminating the monopoly grip of big business, both Indian and foreign. This flexibility of state intervention has been retained while amending this section in response to the discussions to provide for state take-over which now reads as follows: "Eliminate Indian and foreign monopolies in different sectors of industry, finance, trade and services through suitable measures including State take-over of their assets."

This formulation provides for state take-over as one of the measures which can be adopted by a people's democratic government. After a state take-over of the assets of monopolies, how these enterprises can be managed and run can be decided depending on the situation.

In chapter V, in the section on the role of played by parliamentary democracy in the country, the threats to democracy arising from the attempts by the ruling classes to constrain and limit the rights exercised by the people is pointed out. An amendment has been accepted which links the heightened danger to parliamentary democracy to the impact of liberalisation and the pressures of international finance capital. New threats to parliamentary democracy and the democratic rights of the citizens have arisen due to efforts to push through liberalisation in the interests of the big bourgeoisie and to provide a hospitable climate for foreign capital.

On participation in governments

On the question of participation in governments, the draft had reproduced the paragraph 112 of the 1964 programme. In the explanatory notes to the draft by the Central Committee, which were circulated in the Party for explaining the changes made in the programme, it was stated that in the original programme the paragraph pertaining to participation encompasses participation in the governments at all levels and the formulation does not prohibit the Party joining the government at the centre. The question is a tactical one and has to be decided depending on the specific situation.

After amendments received in the pre-conference discussions, the Central Committee decided that the paragraph should specify that it applies to both the states and the centre and the decision is to be taken depending on the concrete situation. Amendments on this section which sought to reopen the question of joining the government at the centre in 1996 or which sought to qualify in what circumstances the Party can join a government at the centre, were rejected. Paragraph 7.17, like the earlier paragraph 112, gives a direction on a tactical issue. When or in what circumstances will the Party join a government, either in the states or at the centre, cannot be specified in the programme. This is a tactical decision to be taken at the appropriate time by the Central Committee.

The discussions also saw questions being raised about some new features of the international and national situation. These found expression in the form of amendments.

Some issues of importance

In the world capitalist system, the phenomenon of globally mobile finance capital, which has grown to huge proportions, was noted in the draft. Some of the amendments sought to depict that, with this growth of mobile finance capital, the role of nation-based capital has been more or less exhausted or ended. This is incorrect. Nation-based capital still plays an important role in contemporary capitalism. Even the MNCs have a national base in the advanced capitalist countries and the state concerned backs and promotes the interests of these MNCs. Nor has the role of the state become redundant, though it plays a new role of enforcing the dictates of international finance capital. The nation-state is still the primary arena of class struggle while greater international cooperation and solidarity is required for the working class movement to counter the operations of the multinational enterprises and capital.

The agrarian section correctly highlights the development of capitalism in agriculture, a process which has gone ahead in the days since the programme was adopted in 1964. The dominance of capitalist relations in agriculture led to a few amendments in the pre-conference stage which sought to argue that the stage of democratic revolution is no more relevant. As the capitalist relations have replaced semi-feudal relations, these amendments said, the task of democratic revolution would thus be redundant. These amendments were rejected as they ignore the overall level of the productive forces existing in Indian society, which are still underdeveloped. The development of capitalist relations has not been able to remove all the fetters on the productive forces. The pre-capitalist relations, both in the base and in the superstructure, need to be eliminated; this is included in the tasks of the democratic revolution. Without taking the whole socio-economic formation into account, it will be wrong to conclude that the tasks of the democratic revolution have been completed by the bourgeoisie and, therefore, now one can talk of the socialist stage.

Fifty years of the republican constitution and parliamentary democratic system have seen bourgeois democracy strike firm roots in India. This has undoubtedly provided greater scope and opportunities for the people to fight for their rights. This positive aspect was noted in the l964 programme and the updated draft. At the same time, the draft noted the class limitations of the democratic system in India. The ruling classes, through various devices, constantly seek to circumscribe and limit democracy and delink political democracy from its social and economic dimensions.

Amendments which sought to ascribe a permanent advance of parliamentary democracy and evaluate the democratic structure of the Indian State, devoid of its class content which distorts it, were rejected by the conference.

There were a number of amendments which sought to include details of current demands of different sections of the people. Such amendments which appeared in the pre-conference stage and during the conference cannot find a place in the programme, however correct and relevant they may be. For instance, in the conference, an amendment was pressed for the inclusion in the people s democratic programme of the provision of joint pattas in land for women. This is a demand which is there in the Party s political resolution of the l6th Congress, in the current tactical line. In the people s democratic programme, there is already a provision for equal rights in property for women including land, which provides the basic direction on this issue. All such amendments which are relevant for the current tactical line were not included in the programme.

The party’s communist character reaffirmed

All in all, as the report on amendments adopted in the conference concluded:

"The whole tenor of discussions show a broad basis of acceptance of the Updated Draft. Overall, the amendments, in general, reflect the efforts of the Party members to enrich the draft by adding what they consider to be relevant points to strengthen the existing formulations, or elaborate the points made which they consider has been insufficiently highlighted.

"There are some amendments which are trying to go deeper to understand the reverses to socialism and to properly assess the new world situation and the mechanics of world capitalism and imperialist globalisation. These are welcome as they show the urge to use Marxism as a basis for deeper study and analysis.

"Finally, there is a category of amendments which are more suited to the current tactical line and not a programmatic document. Besides, some are irrelevant to the programme and show that the political-ideological level is not up to the required standard. The Party will have to take up the work of improving the political-ideological level of party members."

The entire exercise undertaken by the Party, from the Central Committee to the branches, in discussing and finalising the Party programme in its updated form testifies to the vitality of inner-Party democracy and the communist character of the Party which treats its strategic document with seriousness and a sense of historic responsibility.

Forge Militant Struggles against Economic Policies – Main Conference Resolution

This special conference of the CPI(M):

  • notes with serious concern the growing assaults being mounted on the secular, democratic, self-reliant foundations of India and on the living conditions of the vast majority of people by this Vajpayee led NDA government.
  • resolutely opposes the economic policies of unbridled liberalisation which on the one hand, are mortgaging India s economic sovereignty, and on the other, imposing unprecedented and unbearable burdens on the people. Galloping inflation is further eroding the meagre real earnings of the people. Freeze on employment and privatisation of the public sector is swelling the ranks of the unemployed. Precious national assets, built over decades of toil and labour are being sold to private (domestic and foreign) capital for a song.

    Multi National Corporations and foreign capital are being allowed unrestricted access to acquire our economic assets and loot the country. Every single area of critical importance to the economy and the country, including the core and financial sectors, have been opened up for foreign penetration and exploitation. Even in areas such as retail trading, foreign companies are being permitted. The consequence is the ruination of the small scale industries -- the largest employer and export earner of the country. Shamelessly succumbing to US pressures, the Vajpayee government has decided to withdraw the quantitative restrictions on 1429 commodities, mainly agricultural products, from April 2000, in two phases.

    Within months this has spelt ruin to millions of farmers. The resultant large scale dumping of agricultural products by foreign countries -- from sugar to coconut -- is leading to widespread misery as farmers are unable to realise their costs of production. Suicides and distress sales have become the order of the day. Appalling reports regularly appear of farmers selling their vital organs to repay debt. Such is the dehumanising impact of this Vajpayee Government s economic policies. Far from alleviating people s miseries, this government is exacerbating them through regular hikes in the prices of essential commodities. The recent rise in the prices of petroleum products has been particularly savage. It is a telling testimony of this Vajpayee government s callousness that while suicides, starvation deaths, misery and squalor are the order of the day, huge stocks of food rains -- 45 million tons -- are rotting in government godowns.

    These food grains are accumulating not because people do not need them. They are accumulating because people are unable to pay the price fixed by this Vajpayee government. To alleviate people s misery, it is necessary to drastically reduce the price of food grains and strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS). Instead, the PDS is being virtually dismantled posing great threats to our food security. In addition, this Vajpayee government is increasingly abdicating its responsibility towards the people in the social sphere such as education and health. In sum, the economic policies of this Vajpayee government loyally following the IMF and World Bank diktats, only spell ruin for the economy, misery and penury for the vast majority of the people and an unmitigated disaster for the country.
  • Under these circumstances, resolves to strengthen the people s struggles against the policies of this Vajpayee government and calls upon all its units to launch vigorous mass agitations and struggles. In this effort, the anti- power hike struggle in AP is a source of inspiration.
  • Decides to launch an all India movement, along with other left forces in particular and other secular democratic forces, in specific forms to be decided on the basis of concrete situations, to culminate in a militant action during the next budget session of Parliament.


HIV/AIDS - implications for equitable development

This is a summary of a research paper done by Mark Heywood of the AIDS Law Project.


This paper looks at the relationships between development and vulnerability to HIV; and high HIV prevalence and vulnerability to under-development. It does this through the lens of socio-economic rights and International Human Rights Instruments that create obligations for signatory governments to "progressively realise" socio-economic rights.

Human rights and equitable development?

The need to protect the human rights of people vulnerable to or infected with HIV has become common parlance in many societies’ response to the AIDS epidemic. The unique connection between public health and human rights in the specific context of AIDS is important.

Through documents such as the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights a link has been firmly established between respect for civil and political human rights and the diminished vulnerability of populations to HIV infection. For example, it is acknowledged that HIV prevention is more effective in democratic societies that do not criminalise groups of people on the grounds of their sexuality or choice of profession.

However, whilst a number of governments internationally have accepted the connection between civil rights and HIV prevention, they have been reticent to regard the HIV epidemic as cause for more rapid and equitable social development. However, there is an equally important link between the protection, promotion and advancement of economic and social human rights ("development") and diminished vulnerability to HIV. This too is accepted by the UN:

"Enjoyment of the right to an adequate standard of living is essential to reduce vulnerability to the risk and consequences of HIV infection. It is particularly relevant to meeting the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, and/or their families, who have been impoverished by HIV/AIDS as a result of increased morbidity due to AIDS and/or discrimination that can result in unemployment, homelessness or poverty."1

Unfortunately, this insight has not translated into policy. There is no evidence, for example, that the Department of Finance in South Africa has analysed the impact that its Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR) may have on the HIV epidemic.2

For civil and political rights to be genuinely valued by citizens they must be a means to ‘a better life’3. If a better life is made impossible by entrenched structural inequalities, they make a mockery of themselves. Civil rights require that a country can rise above a minimum level of development and can command the resources needed to support and sustain civil and political rights. In other words, respect for human rights is not located purely in the subjective will of governments (be they democratic or undemocratic). It is also determined by the extent of the social and economic development of a country.

Therefore not only the recognition of social and economic rights, but equally of civil and political rights, should impose an obligation on States to co-operate to ensure at least a base-line of minimum social standards – what we might call a "decency threshold".

This is the context in which the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) now argues that:

"Poverty and sustainable livelihoods are closely linked to human rights. Indeed, poverty is a violation of human rights. Poverty and inequality can undermine human rights by fuelling social unrest and violence and increasing the precariousness of social, economic and political rights..."4

The emergence of the Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV) in a pandemic form that is centred on "developing" nations has not created this connection. The AIDS epidemic is merely an expression of the continued irresolution – on a global scale – of the struggle to establish modernity and decency for all. Regrettably, there is still little recognition by political leaders of the continuum between under-development and AIDS and AIDS and further under-development.

Poverty, Development and AIDS

In 1998 two extensive reports on poverty were produced in South Africa. Brief mention is made in both reports of AIDS. The Government report states:

"The combination of poverty, natural disasters, violence, social chaos and the disempowered status of women facilitates the transmission of HIV. Conversely, the illness increases the risk of a household or individual becoming impoverished, and lowers the general level of health in communities because of its close relationship with other communicable and poverty related diseases such as tuberculosis."5

The South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) report quotes individual’s complaints about discrimination and the lack of access to care in the context of HIV/AIDS.6

Unfortunately both reports fail to analyse the degree to which AIDS will impact on development – or is already impacting on development. This omission was corrected slightly by a presentation made by the Minister of Welfare at the launch of the "Partnership on AIDS."7

A large part of the problem, however, is related to the manner in which the concept of ‘development’ is constructed and measured. Many commentators and analysts assess development purely in emerging national economic and social indicators. Recognition of the impact of HIV is therefore postponed until it can be seen in GDP, declines in productivity, increases in mortality, greater demand on health care services. These kinds of statistics are collected only at a national level and even then reporting is often inaccurate and incomplete. Development can, I would argue, be measured more accurately and more immediately at a micro level.

Poverty causes increased vulnerability to HIV by placing people in conditions of such extreme and ongoing hardship that they close ears to messages about "behaviour change". This insight is not new. UNAIDS has pointed out in its Strategic Plan that:

"in the context of people’s lives, many of our key AIDS messages and services may be irrelevant."8 (my emphasis)

In the context of AIDS context is everything. Commercial sex workers in Khutsong, a township near Carletonville on the West Rand, are ‘aware’ of the dangers of HIV, but many will still accept higher payments from clients for unsafe sex. According to a video produced by the Carltonville Western Mine HIV/STD Prevention Project an increase of R10 is often sufficient. In Hillbrow sex-workers told a reporter that "it was simple economics which dictates safety. If a customer wants to have sex without a condom and is prepared to pay good money for it, she won’t stop him."9

The problems peer educators experience with effecting behaviour change amongst sex workers (and other groups) are often the same as the problems that are experienced with effecting behaviour change in poor communities on other developmental issues. For example, a researcher found that ten years into the life of a maternal and child health project in Tanzania and despite knowledge of risk associated with giving infants unsterilised water, many women continued to do so because of the arduous nature of finding and collecting wood.10

Time and again therefore we are reminded that the inter-relationship of rights is irreversible. Widespread disregard of fundamental civil and political rights, such as rights to privacy, bodily autonomy, equality and education undermines individual development. But the connection between bodily autonomy (a first generation right) and poverty (the absence of second generation rights) is emphasised by the fact that a sex worker daily surrenders bodily autonomy and risks physical endangerment because her more immediate needs are social and economic.

In Khutsong the failure or inability of the South African government to "progressively realise" – as is required by the Constitution and international instruments such as International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child (ICRC) -- vital Constitutional rights of to access to housing (s25) and health care (s27) undermines both individual and social development. In poor countries (and increasingly so in parts of industrialized countries) the most important link between AIDS and human rights is therefore likely to be with poverty and the corresponding conditions of life.

This connection has recently been quantified by the World Bank. In the Bank’s 1997 report "Confronting AIDS: Public Priorities in a Global Epidemic" low income and unequal distribution of income are strongly associated with HIV infection rates. The World Bank points out that:

"For the average developing country a $2000 increase in per capita income is associated with a reduction of about four percentage points in the HIV infection rates of urban adults."11

Ideally, therefore, recognition of the human rights dimensions of vulnerability to HIV should incorporate and attach equal importance to monitoring the realisation of the social and economic rights. Yet in practice key economic and social rights – whose fulfillment or not will alternatively reduce or increase vulnerability -- are continually neglected. The attention that is given to individual ‘behaviour change’ in prevention campaigns is not matched by a strategy to promote development in a systematic way. Unfortunately, this appears to be a failing that is being repeated in the "Partnership Against AIDS" campaign, whose entire focus is on a mass mobilisation to prevent new infections. For example, the Minister of Health has stated explicitly that the government cannot afford interventions that would alleviate the suffering of those already infected, such as strategies to reduce mother to child transmission.12

The Gendered nature of HIV/AIDS

Poverty and the consequent alienation of some groups in society from acceptable norms of behaviour is directly and indirectly a determinant that fuels the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. It also has a particularly dramatic impact of the quest for gender equality. For example, there is a great deal of urban legend about willful infection of young girls by marauding bands of alienated youth known as "jack-rollers" in township parlance. These youth cite unemployment and the lack of a future as the cause for their actions. The following quotation must be treated sensitively. It does not reflect the attitude of the majority of youth to HIV. However, neither can it be dismissed as pure sensationalism:

"A study consisting of open-ended semi-structured interviews with 100 subjects aged 18 to 25 [Zulu youth from KwaZulu Natal townships] was conducted.

"From the interviews it became clear that HIV/AIDS has become the new scourge, taking the place of the political struggle which marred the lives of these township youth as children and adolescents. "They had come of age sexually, politically and legally in an era of AIDS." Contracting HIV was seen to be an almost inevitable consequence of being an adult. However, most were not eager to know their HIV status and, in many cases it appeared that knowing your HIV status was accepted not only as a death sentence but as a passport for sexual license.

"Leclerc-Madlala (the researcher) argues that "youngsters in KwaZulu Natal have developed a way of responding to the growing epidemic which is not completely powerless and passive. One option is to take steps to ensure that one will not die alone, this is believed possible by giving your infection to others.""13

On the other hand, a cause of far more concern should be the tens of thousands of ‘consensual infections’ that take place because women – albeit aware of the risk even from their husbands -- are unable to discuss, never mind practice, safer sex.

The recurrent postponement of massive social investment in women’s lives aimed at reducing the social factors that truncate women’s choices leaves half our population facing a terrible vulnerability to HIV.14 While women wait for the ‘progressive realisation’ of their rights they risk infection with HIV, an infection that can drastically curtail individual choices around education, employment.

Access to Health Care and the Right to Dignity, Autonomy and Privacy in Hospitals and clinics

The South African Constitution gives all people in South Africa a right "to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care." Obviously the extent to which one has meaningful access to health care cannot be realised outside the context of sustainable economic growth and development. However, given that infection with HIV is at the most individual and personalised level a health issue, the AIDS epidemic has given a specific urgency to the need for definition of a very general constitutional right of access to health care and reproductive health.

To date there has only been one matter concerning the right to health before the Constitutional Court. However, this matter did not seek a definition of the right of "access to health care" but of the right to "emergency treatment" combined with the right to life. 15The Constitutional Court supported the lower courts and found that budget constraints were a justifiable reason to limit the right of the applicant to ongoing emergency treatment at state expense (kidney dialysis). In the Judgment by Chaskalson P it is stated: "A Court will be slow to interfere with rational decisions taken in good faith by the political organs and medical authorities whose responsibilities it is to deal with such matters." The availability of resources was shown to have a clear relationship to the definition the Court made of a socio-economic right (emergency treatment). It is likely that this approach will endure for some time to come.

The South African health service is starkly divided between the private sector, which serves 20-25% of the population and consumes the largest proportion of health expenditure and the public sector. The response of these two sectors to HIV and AIDS has been very different.

The Private Health Sector

Until 1997/1998 the response of private health care providers and funders was entirely based upon prejudice and homophobia. By the late 1980s medical aid schemes, a form of health insurance by which people obtain access to high-cost, high-quality care, almost universally excluded or drastically limited cover for HIV. By 1998 only 25 % of medical schemes were estimated to provide reasonable cover for HIV/AIDS.16

The effect of these policies was to make it impossible for people with HIV to have access to health-prolonging treatment unless they could fund it on their own. Recently, in tandem with the recognition by medical aid schemes of the arbitrary and unfair nature of these exclusions, together with a reduction in the costs of therapy, this practice has begun to change. More and more medical schemes are now offering ‘managed care’ for HIV infection, including access to anti-retroviral treatment. This shift in approach was forced upon all schemes after the passage of the controversial Medical Schemes Amendment Bill which, amongst other laudable reforms, disallows unfair discrimination on the grounds of ‘state of health’ and will introduce and define Minimum Benefits.

The recurrent dilemma, of course, is that those who have access to treatment through medical schemes are a minority of those infected and that the membership of medical aid schemes (by virtue of being higher income, better educated, home owners or renters) are generally less vulnerable to infection with HIV.

The public health sector

The experience of many people with HIV at public hospitals and clinics has been an unfortunate one. Often nurses and doctors seem to reflect the worst prejudice and ignorance.17 People with HIV tell of their experiences of being tested without informed consent, of "red stickers" indicating their sero-positive status being placed prominently on bed-letters, of verbal abuse and even of isolation.

Contributing to the denigrating and undignified treatment of PWA at public health services is the growing pressure on the public health sector, particularly on hospitals, which were struggling to cope with demand for services even prior to an AIDS epidemic. This is causing many hospitals, and sections within hospitals, to introduce policies such as declining to resuscitate people with HIV in intensive care units, refusing standard operations such as tonsillectomies, and even refusing neo-natal care to infants of HIV positive mothers.18

Unless the impact that the AIDS epidemic is going to have on health services is addressed urgently and policies put into place, these problems are likely to further exacerbated. The White Paper on the Transformation of the Health Service explains the Government’s intention to transform and develop health care in South Africa. But the AIDS epidemic will greatly complicate this process. Many of the measures of development used by the UNDP in its Human Development Index (HDI) are indicators of health that will be adversely affected by AIDS, including infant mortality and adult life expectancy.19 There is, therefore, a danger that public health will suffer because of the huge strain HIV/AIDS will place on health services.

At present the policy of the government towards health care for People living with HIV/AIDS is best described as laissez faire. The thinking seems to be that all health advocacy will lead to expensive and insupportable claims on the public health sector. This is wrong. This strain will not be avoided or alleviated by a lack of policy on treatment for people with AIDS. The issue of interventions to reduce mother to child HIV transmission is a case in point. The Minister of Health seems to have identified only the costs -- but not the cost-savings -- that would flow from such an intervention. Her present statements also fail to recognise the important part this intervention could also play in the national prevention strategy.

HIV Testing

Greater openness about HIV infection and self-knowledge about individual HIV status would be beneficial to society. However, the manner in which openness and knowledge is established remains full of dangers. Consenting to an HIV test is, for most people, a highly traumatic experience. Depending on the quality of the pre-test and post-test counselling it can either be a constructive or very destructive event. It is for this reason that nationally and internationally there is consensus around guidelines about the manner in which HIV tests should be conducted.20

UNAIDS estimates that in Africa less than 10% of all people infected with HIV have been tested for HIV and know their HIV status.21 This applies equally to South Africa. One factor explaining this is the degree of access to blood tests, particularly in rural areas. However, even in urban areas routine testing for HIV is not encouraged in the tertiary health sector and is generally only recommended for diagnostic purposes. The cost of providing properly trained counsellors is the main reason for this policy.

Another factor is that the HIV test has become widely associated with discrimination (fair and unfair), stigma and a loss of civil rights.

One major cause of people having an HIV test is for purposes of individual insurance (life-cover). In 1988 a policy to deny individual insurance to people with HIV was introduced by the Life Offices’ Association (LOA), an umbrella body representing most insurers in South Africa. This policy is implemented by testing all applicants for insurance. Those who are positive are unable to obtain individual life insurance.

Old Mutual, one of the biggest insurance houses, estimates that it has conducted two and a half million HIV tests.22

Fedsure Life reports that it carried out 16,700 HIV tests in 1996 and 22,200 in 1997, for insurance policies requiring death cover.23

Southern Life expected to conduct 4,000 retests in 1998 on its Exclusive Life policy-holders.24

In 1997 the LOA reported conducting 100,000 HIV tests per month on prospective clients, and that "approximately 2% show signs of being sero-positive."25 This suggests that the insurance industry is directly responsible for the diagnosis of about 22 000 HIV infections per annum.

The LOA believes that the HIV testing it requires is:

"de facto a large community health initiative, funded by the insurance industry and as a result the health of South Africans is significantly improved in the process."26

Unfortunately despite the resources commanded by the insurance industry, most of these tests are conducted without appropriate pre-test counselling. Insurance applicants are given a printed sheet to read that conveys information about HIV. This is the mechanism by which they obtain informed consent.

Further, although the industry has agreed to pay for one post-test counselling session per HIV positive client, figures provided by the LOA to the Department of Health suggest that there is a less than 30% take up on this counselling.

In 1997 an attempt was made by the Department of Health and several NGOs to persuade the LOA to pay for proper pre-test counselling, if an applicant requested it, as well as to advertise support services for people with HIV. Although the individuals negotiating on behalf of the LOA seemed to accept these proposals, they were torpedoed when they were presented to the LOA itself.

The result of the extent of this kind of HIV testing is probably that negative test results (obtained without any post-test counselling) reinforce a large number of people’s sense of invulnerability to HIV. Positive test results, carried out without appropriate pre- or post- test counselling, lead to large numbers of infected people living in a state of denial about their HIV status, unable or unwilling to communicate the information to their sexual partners.


This paper has attempted to capture and communicate the extent to which human rights violations by omission (social and economic rights) or commission (civil and political rights) are contributing to the unmanageability of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. It has attempted to juxtapose the manifold ongoing violations with a policy environment which increasingly recognises the human rights of people with HIV or AIDS. However, it is obvious that good policy does not automatically transform itself into good practice.

The NACOSA National AIDS plan warned against this in 1994:

"The adoption of a national policy of non-discrimination is not in itself sufficient from the point of view of enforcement. An effective enforcement mechanism is required to ensure that a policy of non-discrimination is enforced".27

The Plan proposed that final authority for co-ordinating and policy-making should be vested with the President’s office. It also recommended "The creation of a body dedicated to policing and enforcing non-discrimination on the basis of HIV/AIDS" although with powers limited to investigation and recommendations.28 This recommendation was not implemented.

Five years later, it is clear that statutory and non-statutory Human Rights bodies have failed to protect people with HIV. However, in the present political climate -- where there is a great deal of public skepticism about the cost of bodies such as the CGE and HRC -- it would not be wise to propose the creation a new body dedicated solely to preventing AIDS related discrimination, as originally proposed by NACOSA.

South Africa has now reached a stage in the AIDS epidemic where a degree of compulsion is necessary. The almost unavoidable prospect of four million HIV infections by the year 2000 is a threat to development and to stability. It requires a response and a re-prioritization akin to what happens when states go to war, or have to respond to an unexpected national disaster.

Although NGOs have kept the flame of human rights burning it will require the public support of all sectors of society to turn the tide of discrimination.

Meanwhile there are severe consequences to the ongoing epidemic of stigma. In the words of a Canadian report:

"It can result in attitudes and actions that may prevent those who are living with HIV/AIDS from seeking or obtaining health care and the social support they require. Adults with HIV/AIDS have lost their jobs or been denied employment, insurance, housing and other services. Children with HIV/AIDS have been denied day care. Because of their beliefs and values, people have been disposed not to provide information about preventing the transmission of HIV, and have supported laws and policies that render the stigmatised more vulnerable to HIV infection."29

Finally, there is a development imperative to confronting the epidemic of stigma. Social development is ideally the cumulative expression of individual development. In the past, apartheid thwarted the individual development of the majority of South Africans. This prevented equitable and sustainable social development. It contributed to the sharp disparities that characterise South Africa in 1998. HIV infection and AIDS are a health epidemic that are located in old inequalities and create new inequalities. However, they can be controlled.

Eventually, the extent to which HIV thwarts individual development depends on societies’ attitude to people infected with HIV. If society makes it difficult for people with HIV to work, to exercise their individual skills and to receive life-prolonging treatment then AIDS will take an enormous toll on the development of millions of individuals. This will impact on all the indices of social development.

Confronting AIDS requires openness about HIV infection and the involvement of people infected with HIV. This will only happen when the barriers to ‘openness’ are brought down.


The Swazi revolution in context

By Bongani Masuku


In different countries the bourgeoisie exerts its class rule through different kinds of domination ranging from remnant feudalism, bourgeois democracy to fascism. Within Swaziland, bourgeois domination and capitalist relations of production, which emerged within the context of colonialism, have been developed and entrenched since 1968 through a particular variant of bourgeois rule-semi-feudalism and neo-colonialism. It is a variant of capitalist rule in which the essential features of colonial and feudal domination in the imperialist epoch are maintained and even intensified.

On 6 September 1968, the British colonialists under pressure handed over power to an equally exploitative surrogate regime - the Imbokodvo/Tinkhundla regime. The constituent components of this regime are the traditional aristocracy, the comprador bourgeoisie and international capital.

The growing struggles of the militant working class, particularly in the agricultural sector of Swaziland; and the crisis which British imperialism was going through all over the world (as a result of the anti-colonial struggles waged by liberation movements throughout the British empire and the amount of energy and resources devoted to the second world war in which Britain was a major player) were the two principal reasons that led to the granting of "independence" to Swaziland.

Tinkhundla represents a bureaucratic class, which feudalistically uses the poorest of the poor to advance its own class interests. It uses violence, manipulation of traditional values and ideological deception to perpetuate its own interests. Accordingly, this bureaucratic class is essentially seeking financial security through political office. Tinkhundla is a subtle creation of imperialism and is completely in its service. Imperialism relies on Tinkhundla feudalism to exploit the people, essentially the working peasantry. That is why to liberate the people means first and foremost and, in the main, democracy for the working and rural masses as a fundamental condition for people’s power.

The so-called independence of 1968 meant the emergence of neo-colonialism as a predator elite in the name of Tinkhundla regime, looting national resources and engaging in corruption, feeding on the plight of the people, willing to even take them through that which serves only these predators and their imperialist masters. This elite was established by the colonial powers as they left the country in order to retain an influence and control of Swaziland’s affairs. In essence, the British colonialists left the country content that their interests and hegemony are guaranteed and sustained under new conditions. This explains the renewal and not abolishment of colonial relations under a black surrogate regime up to this day. This explains the notion of neo-colonialism in alliance with the most backward social relations of semi-feudalism. The ruling regime of Swaziland, therefore remains a rightwing version of capitalism thriving on the crude forms of exploitation and oppression.

According to Richard Levin, "Since the reign of Sobhuza 1, de facto ownership and control over national resources such as land and cattle, been held in trust by the king for the nation. This conception has persisted to the present legitimising, for instance the establishment of the royal investment fund –Tibiyo takaNgwane. In practice, however, these national assets have been utilised to shore up the economic power of the king and his confidants. During the regime of Mbandzeni, for example who acceded to the throne in 1875,land and mineral right held in trust for nation were pawned away by the king through concessions without consulting his subjects".

As a patriarchal-feudal system, the Tinkhundla system subjects women to control and domination through pre-modern control over their reproductive capacity and thoroughly exploitative and forced expropriation of their unpaid labour.

This explains the inferior status of women, as they have no access to land and credit, thus compromising their independence and effective contribution to social product in economic and other terms.

The Tinkhundla regime of Swaziland uses a three-headed strategy to deal with the democratic movement and the struggling masses in general. Firstly, co-option of allies within the oppressed masses to deflect the mass democratic struggle to some extent and to establish a bridgehead, on the basis of an "enlightened" aristocracy within the masses themselves. Secondly, it must ensure that the repressive capacity of the state is strong enough to withstand onslaughts at weak points – especially in the economic citadels themselves. Thirdly, it requires an appropriately mystifying ideology to make the struggle of the people more difficult and confused.

The system uses the most primitive method of wealth accumulation, particularly in rural areas where the people who work the land do no own it. It is owned by the chief (on behalf of the king) who owns the land and has authority to compel the people to work for him. This is an essential part of the ideology and political pressures necessary for the maintenance of an exploitative relationship, which requires use of both economic and non-economic means of coercion. In such society of semi-feudalism all production is the fruit and toil of the working masses and the peasantry. Peasant production is divided into surplus production and necessary (subsistence) production. The part of her/his production, which the peasant pays to the chief, is referred to as surplus production, which includes tribute labour or feudal rent, which confirms ownership of the land, by the chief. In this regard, all productive efforts are directed at fulfilling tribute labour. In general, as regards labour rent, the peasants have to work for the chiefs throughout the year, particularly during the ploughing season, if s/he fails to fulfill his obligations, s/he is made to pay or be severely punished or even thrown out of her/his land. In essence rural people live only to fulfill the interests of the chiefs, who acquire their income through the limitless exploitation of the rural poor. Whenever the rural person is ordered by the chief, s/he leaves her/his own domestic duties aside and work for the chief like a slave.

Motive forces of the democratic revolution

The first crucial problem of the revolution is to assert the leading role of the working class in a context where the working class is numerically small and not the majority of society. Because of its political, economic and historical position, the working class has become the representative of the progress of human society in our epoch.

Besides the proletariat, the leading class, the peasantry has the potential to be the most active opponent of neo-colonialism and semi-feudalism. The peasants make up the majority of our population and the greatest force in the democratic revolution. That is why to make them follow the lead of the working class, develop their great revolutionary potential to the utmost, and build the worker-peasant alliance is the basic condition in ensuring victory to the revolution. Our primary task is the need to rally the large forces of the peasantry, successfully build a firm worker-peasant alliance, the main force of the revolution. On the basis of the worker-peasant alliance, the movement has to set up a broad front, which brings together all patriotic and progressive forces and direct the spearhead against the common enemy of the people.

In our era, a movement for social emancipation and national liberation can only be truly revolutionary when its core is made up of the workers and peasants, when it develops with the power of the worker-peasant alliance and under the leadership of the working class. If revolution is the festival of the masses, then in the conditions prevailing in such a country as ours, a truly revolutionary movement must be one whose main force includes two components - the workers and the peasants. Only by realising a worker-peasant alliance and relying on that firm foundation will the people’s movement be able to rally the other classes and strata with a national and democratic leaning towards the revolutionary cause.

We are struggling to free the peasants from the yoke imposed on them by the chiefs, to bring them land, which is the essence of the democratic revolution in relation to rural areas. This is why a radical programme for economic freedom and agrarian reform can ensure the movement succeeds in winning large masses of the peasantry and the working class, mobilising other popular forces and taking them along with the motive forces to the battlefront of the struggle.

According to Lenin, "it would be utopian to think that the proletarian forces, insofar as it is at all possible for them to arise in these countries, will be able to carry out revolutionary tactics and policies in the backward countries without having a definite relationship with the peasant movement, without supporting it in deeds".

Further to that the First International noted that the revolutionary movement in the backward countries will not succeed unless it bases itself on the activity of the broad peasant masses. This is why it emphasised that the revolutionary parties in all the backward countries must formulate a clear agrarian programme that includes the demand for the complete overthrow of feudalism and its institutions. To draw the peasant masses into an active struggle for national liberation, revolutionaries must advocate a radical change in the basis of land ownership, and as far as possible must force the bourgeois-national forces to adopt this revolutionary agrarian programme.

A dual task faces the revolutionary and workers’ organisations in Swaziland. On the one hand, they are fighting for more radical answers to the demands of all social forces, directed towards the winning of democratic change. On the other hand, they are organising the masses of workers and peasants to fight for their own class interests, taking advantage of the revolutionary mood of the struggling masses.

The programme for a thorough-going democratic revolution

A method or form of struggle can be considered best and most appropriate only when it fully satisfies the requirements of a given situation, is thoroughly suited to the conditions in which it is applied, raises the courage of the revolutionary and progressive forces and rouses them to action, allows for a thorough exploitation of the enemy’s weaknesses, and for all these reasons, is likely to bring about the greatest success possible, given the balance of forces prevailing at the time.

The victory of a revolution depends primarily on a correct determination of the general orientation and strategic objective, as well as the specific orientation and objective for each period. But just as important as defining the orientation and objective is the problem of how to carry them into effect once such decisions have been made.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has just recently adopted a revolutionary programme called "The last mile to freedom" as a broad political programme for democratic transformation and fundamental change. According to this programme, the masses themselves are largely organised by the struggle itself. The urgent task of the movement is to inject into the masses of our people a feeling of confidence in their own potential to overthrow the system by means of vigorous revolutionary action, the main content of which must be effective and sustained defiance."

The programme lays particular emphasis on the intensification of the process of organising and mobilising mass democratic organisations of civil society and mass participation as popular vehicles for change. The movement regards it to be of prime importance to the struggle to build organs of people’s power, particularly community structures where they do not exist and strengthening them where they exist.

It further commits the movement into taking a lead in activating and organising the already brewing discontent of the people in the communities around the bread and butter demands and concerns of the people, and translate them into a clearly conscious political programme for a national democratic purpose. Issues that have proven to be of critical concern and affect the daily lives of the masses should be correctly identified from community to community, after which a programme should be developed out of them, to give the democratic agenda a practical and material meaning to the masses of the people.

Particular emphasis is laid on developing a clear working alliance with the progressive trade union federation (SFTU – Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions) for purposes of rooting revolutionary consciousness among the organised workers, the most organised and advanced detachment of the working class, as well as to infuse the movement with working class militancy.

With regard to building a broad political front for change, which is the SDA as currently constituted, there is an understanding that the search for a way out of the Tinkhundla crisis daily gives birth to more and more forces who seek change in the direction of anti-Tinkhundla and democracy. These forces are not necessarily part of the revolutionary camp, with which they have various differences on strategy and tactics, but we must do all within our power to increase the distance between these forces for change and the regime. We must on no account push them back into the enemy laager by using alienating tactics.

The key problem facing us today is Tinkhundla and there are many forces opposed to Tinkhundla for various reasons. Shared interests do not make these forces identical. It was necessary, therefore to form a tactical alliance. Ultimately, the way forward lies in the broadest possible united action against Tinkhundla oppression as the most minimum issue for immediate resolution.

Importantly, the right to criticise allies must never be abandoned. This is so that we can help the masses raise their vigilance, expose opportunists, strengthen our influence on the masses and be clearly understood by the masses as the frontline champions of their interests at all times.


"The removal of the 1973 king’s proclamation, though amounting to qualitative historical moment in the course of the transfer of power from the royalist clique to the democratic majority, but this moment does not mark a complete transfer of political power. The majority shall have won only some of the important elements of the political power necessary for the advancement of the struggle towards the completion of the current phase of the democratic struggle" - Political and Strategic perspectives document of PUDEMO.

In our conditions you do not have to be an ideologue to conclude that change which concerns only the rearrangement of the electoral system and leaves intact the royal monopoly of our wealth, is no change at all. It is true that royal privilege has been the device to create and protect royal economic privilege. It is therefore, impossible to imagine any form of fundamental change, which does not at the same time, involve a fundamental rearrangement of the ownership and distribution of the wealth. It is precisely our movement’s emphasis on the economic content of our struggle that informs our ideology of revolutionary nationalism.


  1. Richard Levin, "When the sleeping grass awakens" 1997.
  2. "Strategic Route", SWAYOCO input towards PUDEMO Congress, 2000
  3. "Last mile to freedom", Political programme of PUDEMO, 1998.
  4. B. Masuku, "Theses on the democratic revolution in Swaziland", 1999.
  5. A. Langa, "New trends in African nationalism", African Communist, 1959.
  6. B. Masuku, "The rural question in Swaziland", 2000
  7. Ben Turok, "Revolutionary thought in the 20th Century", 1991.
  8. "Path to power", Programme of the SACP, 1989
  9. Political and Strategic perspectives document of PUDEMO; 1996

Author’s note

The usage of the terms - peasants and feudalism - has been very loose, such that it has been interchangeable with semi-peasants and semi-feudalism. Otherwise in strict terms, Swaziland cannot be characterised as having a peasantry or feudal system in the classical sense even in the most backward parts of the countryside. Only the semi-proletariat/semi-peasant exists, which for purpose of this paper has been generally referred to as the peasant.

Editorial note

The African Communist invites readers to use future issues of the African Communist contribute to this discussion of the Swaziland revolution and other working class and peasant struggles in the Southern African region. On Swaziland, we specifically invite articles on the following issues and much more: -

  • The structure of the Swazi economy and its integration into the regional economy
  • The role of local, regional and international private capital in the political economy of Swaziland
  • Swazi political, social and cultural structures in their relation to the Swazi revolution


Promoting a Progressive Cooperative Movement in South Africa: The Issue of Finance

By Rob Davies

The remarks in this paper are based largely on the broader experience of black-owned Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises (SMMEs) and are intended to address some of the issues that a strategy to effectively promote cooperatives will have to address.

The point of departure is located within the perspectives on cooperatives emerging within the SACP. This, I understand, to be very similar to that of Lenin, particularly in his writings on the "New Economic Policy" period in the Soviet Union. This fully recognizes the contradictory character of cooperatives. They are enterprises operating like (and in competition with) other forms of enterprise within the framework of a system of commodity production. But they are also at the same time collective enterprises with particular features and characteristics that distinguish them from individually owned or conventional capitalist enterprises. As such cooperatives are subject to contradictory pressures and can assume a number of forms and characteristics. They can also be formed by different class forces. While this means that it would be a mistake to assume that all forms of cooperative in all situations are progressive, progressive forces have identified the promotion of cooperatives among the working poor as having progressive potential. First, they can offer a number of practical benefits particularly for various strata of the working poor (often the peasantry, but also others engaged in petty commodity production or trade) over other forms of enterprise. Second, the fact that they are a collective form of organization has been seen as potentially injecting a collective consciousness that can be the basis of a firmer identification of such strata with the working class and with socialism.

Certainly at the present phase of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in South Africa there is much potential for cooperatives to contribute in both the above identified ways. A key question, which was also one sharply posed by Lenin in the NEP period in the Soviet Union is to identify forms of practical state support and even preference that enables the emergence of a flourishing progressive cooperative movement in this country.

The Need for an Appropriate Legal Base

One of the major impediments to the development of a vibrant cooperative movement in South Africa today is, undoubtedly, the lack of an appropriate legal base. Current legislation on cooperatives was enacted by the apartheid regime to promote marketing cooperatives among white commercial farmers. The Cooperatives Act 91 of 1981 remains the main piece of legislation governing cooperatives. It provides for three kinds of cooperatives to be formed and incorporated under the Act – agricultural cooperatives, special farmers’ cooperatives and trading cooperatives. All of these operate only in the agricultural sector and the Act is administered by the Department of Agriculture. The definitions in the Act also make it clear that the kind of cooperatives envisaged are those engaged in the marketing of agricultural products or the provision of inputs to farmers rather than producer cooperatives.

Other cooperatives have not had specific purpose built legislation under which to operate and have had to register under other legislation. This would include the Companies Act or Close Corporation Act, neither of which gives any special recognition to cooperatives. The small credit union or savings cooperative movement in South Africa has found the Mutual Banks Act or other legislation relating to "small" deposit-taking institutions wholly inappropriate for its activities and a major impediment to its growth.

Government has recognized the need for new legislation and a draft statute is being prepared for eventual tabling in Parliament. The draft provides for cooperatives to be legal entities with limited liability, for registration procedures and for a variety of provisions to ensure that "Cooperatives are operated on a co-operative basis underpinned by sound business principles". Production as well as marketing cooperatives would be covered and the draft includes specific provisions on agriculture and farmers cooperatives, financial service cooperatives, hosing cooperatives, transport cooperatives, medical cooperatives and worker cooperatives (the latter defined as "a cooperative whose prime objectives are to provide employment to its members and to operate an enterprise in which control rests with the members").

The SACP will in due course want to examine the Bill in detail and submit comments, but its passage should in principle address at least one current impediment – the lack of an appropriate legal basis for the development of a cooperative movement.

Problems with Access to Finance

Access to finance will undoubtedly be another major problem. The National Enterprise Survey being undertaken within the Presidency found that although access to finance was not a major problem for all small business, it was for black-owned SMMEs. Various research studies and public hearings have identified the major problems at the level of individual enterprises as including:

  • A lack of own start up finance. Small enterprises in developed countries are often initially at least partly funded by taking out second mortgages on homes or accessing savings. Our people in general lack the ability to contribute significant "own finance" when starting enterprises. As a result, many of those that are able to overcome the significant hurdles in securing access to loan finance are "over geared" i.e.saddled with huge debt repayable at high rates of interest.
  • Lack of bankable collateral. Many of our people do not own assets that can put up as security to access loans. Linked to this is the continued practice of "red lining". Even when people do own homes with commercial value they are in areas which banks will not accept as security.

These are compounded by:

  • Structural characteristics of the financial sector. These operate at several levels.
  1. Legislation inherited from the previous order is focused particularly on deposit-taking institutions and imposes significant fiduciary obligations on such bodies. This is seen as an impediment to the emergence of other types of securities-type institutions that might provide risk capital.
  2. There are insufficient NGO-type retail finance service providers
  3. Para-statals, including the Land Bank, Industrial Development Corporation and Khula operate only in specific sectors or segments of the market or on too small a scale
  4. the banks say that they are structurally ill equipped to service the micro-enterprise sector and can only provide loans to very small enterprises on a limited scale through specialist institutions like Sizanani.
  • Attitudes within the banking sector and discrimination. However much the banks may deny it, there is overwhelming evidence that even in sectors where the banks themselves say they are and should be involved – small and medium enterprises (as defined in the National Small Business Act) – black-owned enterprises encounter greater problems than their white counterparts and a general attitude of reluctance to expand activities in this regard.

There is a growing feeling within government, parliament and the movement in general that new initiatives are needed to confront these issues. This would include:

  • Taking steps to promote structural reform in the financial sector and encourage the emergence of new, more appropriate institutions by, inter alia, reviewing legislation to encourage the emergence of alternative financial institutions including cooperatives.
  • Reviewing the role of para-statals including Khula and the IDC.
  • Acting resolutely against discrimination by banks, including through the provisions of the Equality Act.
  • Considering some version of Community Reinvestment legislation that would at least require uniform disclosure by banks of their involvement in providing finance to SMMEs and other development priority activities and perhaps specify certain obligations in this regard.

Significance for Cooperatives

The way in which the debate on the broader issue of SMME finance in general evolves will of course have significance for cooperatives as it will for all other forms of small enterprise. A question we need to ask ourselves is what in addition should we be focusing on with regard to cooperatives ?

Different types of cooperatives will, of course, have different requirements with regard to finance, and indeed the promotion of cooperatves in the finance sector itself could make a significant contribution. One point that should be underscored is that cooperatives as collective enterprises should in principle be better placed to address some of the impediments at specific enterprise level identified above. Thus, through organizing collectively cooperatives should be able to raise more resources as own capital than enterprises based either on individual ownership or small private companies would be able to raise. The collective responsibility for repayment, albeit within the context of limited liability, should also be recognized as enhancing the credit worthiness of cooperatives vis a vis other forms of enterprise. Given an appropriate legal base, this should in principle be able to be translated into a real comparative advantage for cooperatives.

One of the challenges which Lenin identified in promoting cooperatives in the period of "New Economic Policy" in the Soviet Union – an objective to which he attached major significance – was to ensure that:

"Cooperation was politically so organized that it will not only generally and always enjoy certain privileges, but that these privileges should be of a purely material nature (a favourable bank-rate etc). The cooperatives must be granted state loans that are greater, if only by a little than the loans we grant to private enterprises, even to heavy industry etc. " (On Cooperation 1923 in Lenin, "Alliance of the Working Class and the Peasantry" selection by Progress Publishers, Moscow 1976, p421).

Translating this to our own circumstances, we might identify one of the key challenges as: what sort of special advantages and benefits should we be seeking for cooperatives in relation to other forms of enterprise, including other black owned SMMEs ?

Arising from the above, a number of possible issues and areas can be identified. First, we should press for recognition in financial transactions with both private and public entities of the inherent structural advantages of cooperatives as collective enterprises. Recognising the greater credit-worthiness of collectives is the basis on which well known successful institutions in developing countries like the Grameen bank operate. There should be no reason why, once an appropriate legal statute is in place, we should not expect cooperatives to be able to command access to credit on better terms and at a better rate than other enterprises. This, we should insist, is a structural, economic factor that should be recognised even by private capitalist financial institutions.

We should also, secondly, look to governmental institutions, including Khula etc, to underscore this with a preference that is both based on recognition of such economic realities and informed by a political commitment. There should, therefore, be scope to ensure that cooperatives enjoy "certain privileges" of a material nature that would include both a favourable bank rate and greater access to loans.


[i] UN Guidelines, p 55
[ii] The GEAR strategy has been widely criticised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, NGOs and left-wing political parties as being an economic policy that will lead to job losses and greater hardship rather than its opposite. If this is true, then it will also undermine HIV prevention.
[iii] ‘A Better Life for All’ was one of the election slogans of the ANC in the 1994 elections. The fact democracy and citizenship (which is still highly prized) has not yet led to a better social life for millions of South Africans is a factor underpinning many of the social instabilities that still face our society.
[iv] UNDP Integrating Human Rights with Sustainable Development, 1998 pp.7-8
[v] Report prepared for the Office of the Executive Deputy President into Poverty and Inequality in South Africa, May 1998, p. 25.
[vi] SA NGO Coalition / Human Rights Commission / Commission on Gender Equality ‘Poverty and Human Rights’, July 1998
[vii] Speech by Minister Geraldine Fraser Moleketi, 11 September 1998
[viii] “Billions of men, women and children live in a societal context in which they would not be able to exercise prevention and care options even if these were available to them.” UNAIDS Strategic Plan
[ix] Saturday Star, 10 October 1998.This article also makes clear the linkages between entry into prostitution and poverty.
[x] F Young, presentation to Department of Health Seminar on HIV/AIDS and Development, August 1998
[xi] Confronting AIDS, Public Priorities in a Global Epidemic, World Bank Policy Research Report, 1997 p.28
[xii] Sunday Times, 25 October 1998
[xiii] Article Summary, AIDS Bulletin. “Infect One, Infect All: Zulu Youth Response to the AIDS Epidemic in South Africa” Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala. Medical Athrop, 17 (4): 363-380
[xiv] See Jackson, H. “Societal Determinants of Women’s Vulnerability to HIV Infection in Southern Africa” Health and Human Rights, 2:4, 1998:
“…the central concern must be for strategies to develop human or social capital with, of necessity, emphasis on developing the potential of women and protecting their human rights. The sooner this can be recognised and acted upon as a central goal of development for all, rather than as a polarising of the sexes, the sooner meaningful progress can be made not only towards gender equality but towards curbing and coping with the AIDS epidemic itself.” P.14
[xv] Soobramoney v Minister of Health (KwaZulu Natal), CCT 32/97
[xvi] G Solankie and E Potgieter, Interface, Summer 1998, Volume 4
[xvii] CASE report, 166.
[xviii] These policies are introduced by the hospital superintendent or sometimes simply evolve as unwritten rules in the practice of particular departments.
[xix] The 1997 UNDP Human Development report noted that “in 18 of the 22 mostly sub-Saharan African countries studied, HIV/AIDS would reduce life expectancy by at at least 10 years, and in 14 it would push up child mortality by at least 50 deaths per 1000 live births.” P. 67.
[xx] In South Africa doctors are legally bound by the Guidelines written by the South African Medical and Dental Council. In addition a National policy on HIV Testing has been proposed by the SA Law Commission and accepted by the Minister of Justice. Some Provinces, such as Gauteng, have also produced specific guidelines.
[xxi] UNAIDS, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, June 1998.
[xxii] Input by a manager of Old Mutual to the Partnership Against AIDS meeting, Pretoria, September 11, 1998
[xxiii] JMD Holderness, Head of Operations, letter to the AIDS Law Project, 24/03/1998.
[xxiv] J Slawski, correspondence with the ALP, 27/10/1998
[xxvi] Ibid
[xxv] Letter from Dr I K Lockyer, LOA Medical and Underwriting subcommittee to Minister of Health, Dr N Zuma, 5 February 1997
[xxvii] NACOSA Plan, p
[xxviii] NACOSA Plan, p
[xxix] Canadian AIDS Society / Canadian AIDS Legal Network, HIV/AIDS and Discrimination: A Discussion paper, March 1998, 3