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No 158 Third/Fourth Quarter 2001

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



Political Report to the Central Committee, 14-16 September 2001

Outlining the Key Strategic Challenges for the Alliance

Letter from Peter Mokaba

A response to Peter Mokaba

People of a Special Mould

Restructuring of State-Owned Enterprises in China

Globalisation: A dead end or a way out?

After the September 11 terrorist bombing and the US retaliations in Afghanistan


2001 has been a challenging year for the SACP, and indeed for our ANC-led alliance and progressive South Africans in general. There are many things, frankly, which give rise to serious concern. Among them are the free-fall in our currency, the sheer scale of unemployment in our country, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, growing instability in Zimbabwe, the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, and the danger of a post-September 11th US increasing in belligerence, and more and more prepared to act militarily in a unilateral fashion. There is, alas, a litany of serious concerns.

The year ends with our currency in free-fall against the world’s major currencies. Over the last months the rand has been the world’s worst performing currency. True, the rand’s value against the US dollar, or euro, might not have an immediate impact on the life-styles of the millions of unemployed or working people in South Africa who, in any case, cannot afford imported luxury goods or holidays on the French Riviera. But, in the medium-term, South African economic growth, development and job creation will be further hammered by this currency decline.

What is causing the decline? Even the opinionated, dial-a-quote economic “experts”, who have been giving us unsolicited lessons on the value of “liberalising” everything in sight, are now admitting to being totally nonplussed. They have blamed everything from A to Z, literally, the rand is in free-fall, we are told because of Argentine and Zimbabwe - which even they have to admit does not make much sense. They keep telling us that the “fundamentals” are in place, perhaps it is time for them to do the unthinkable - to revise what it is that should be regarded as fundamental.

Our currency’s performance is an element of a broader picture of persisting and deeply structured economic disparities. Despite our genuine, and at times remarkable, attempts to address many socio-economic back-logs in housing, water, sanitation, social security, health-care and education, South Africa remains, stubbornly, one of the most unequal societies on earth. Our unemployment rate (anything between an official 26% to nearly 40%) continues to be deeply concerning.

The scope and sheer tragedy of the HIV/AIDS pandemic ravaging our country has become more and more apparent to most of us in the course of this year, not just in the burgeoning statistics, but in lived reality itself. Few of us have not been touched more or less directly by the loss of family members, partners, work colleagues, comrades and friends. Many of us are HIV positive.

These and other challenges have confronted our ANC-led alliance over the past year. They pose at least two kinds of inter-related challenge - the challenge of correctly analysing the underlying causes of the problems, and the challenge of doing something about them.

How have we managed over the past year? Not so badly, considering the scale of what we are up against, but perhaps not nearly as well as we might have.

When it comes to analysing our economic realities, there is much that needs to be said. The SACP is convinced that one important contribution to a clearer analysis lies in re-introducing the concept (it doesn’t have to be the actual word) “imperialism” into the strategic thinking of our liberation movement. When, in a recent issue of the AC, we asserted that “globalisation IS imperialism”, not everyone in our movement agreed. Some comrades felt this was a reckless and pseudo-militant playing with words. They felt that we were somehow arguing that we should “reject” globalisation. Or that, as comrade Peter Mokaba writes in his intervention published in this issue, that we were arguing that globalisation is “a subjective invention of a neo-liberal cabal located in Washington”.

On the contrary, we believe that the current phase of imperialist globalisation is, essentially, an objective reality - and that both its positive and negative features are realities determined by the contradictory character of capitalist forces and relations of production. In this issue we publish a slightly abbreviated version of an extensive piece by the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, comrade Zhuganov, in which a similar argument is developed at some length.

In South Africa we sometimes speak proudly (and often with some justification) of “punching above our weight” on the global terrain. But, at the end of the day, we are an African country, a semi-peripheral economy, and whatever the esteem in which some of our achievements and in which some of our leaders are held, the OBJECTIVE dynamics of the current phase of globalisation are deepening our marginalisation, and they are aggravating our own systemic and deeply structured inequalities. Some of the “fundamentals” which we proudly display as evidence of our being able to punch “above our weight” - like an exceptionally tradeable currency for a “developing” economy - are precisely the reason why we are vulnerable. The actual crises might be in Argentine or Zimbabwe, but the highly tradeable rand is the currency that is punished. Perhaps we are also being punched above our weight?

We are not arguing for a disengagement from the world, but how we engage must be based on a systematic and scientific analysis of the major trends in the world economy, and on a sober understanding of our own capacities and resources.

Analysis matters, but organised practice is also critical. On this front we have considerable potential resources. Whatever our shortcomings, the ANC-led liberation movement continues to enjoy overwhelming majority support in our country. The ANC is the ruling party, but it also (at least potentially) the leading formation across a broad front of very significant social movements - trade unions, HIV/AIDS activist networks, a burgeoning co-operative movement, and a variety of other developmental and anti-crime community based formations.

But here, too, 2001 has seen problems and contradictions. In August, tensions within our ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance around the restructuring of parastatals surfaced publicly, and resulted in a major and controversial strike, that pitted COSATU (supported by the SACP) against aspects of government policy. Earlier in the year, government and a range of progressive HIV/AIDS groups (notably the Treatment Action Campaign) combined forces and won a famous and internationally significant court victory against the pharmaceutical transnationals. But by the end of this year, this progressive front was on opposite sides of another legal hearing - with the TAC successfully taking government to court on the question of supplying medication to HIV positive mothers and their newborn infants.

In 2002, and going forward, if we are to have any hope of dealing with some degree of effectiveness with our domestic (not to mention global) challenges, then it is imperative that we build and foster unity in common programmes of action. In the coming year, the 90th anniversary year of the African National Congress, the SACP will be advancing the call for unity in action between government and people. Our government continues to enjoy overwhelming popular support, our people continue to show immense resources of resilience, militancy, and capacity for self-mobilisation. Our alliance, led by the ANC, must unite these realities - government resources and popular energies and aspirations. This is the true meaning of the Freedom Charter’s call: The People Shall Govern.


Political Report to the Central Committee, 14-16 September 2001

Safeguarding the interests of the Working Class and Preserving the Unity of our Alliance:

The history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggle”. (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848)

“All societies therefore necessarily bear the imprint, the birthmarks of their own past... To understand South Africa we must appreciate the fact and fix it firmly in our minds that here we are dealing with a class society. In South Africa the capitalists, the bourgeoisie are the dominant class. Therefore the state, other forms of social organisation and the “official” ideas are conditioned by this one fact of the supremacy of the bourgeoisie. It would be therefore true to say that in its essential features South Africa conforms to other societies where this class feature is dominant”. (Thabo Mbeki, “The Historical Injustice”, Sechaba 1979)

“There is no middle course... for mankind has not created a “third” ideology, and moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class ideology...(Lenin, “What is To Be Done?” 1905)

It is undeniable that the Alliance is taking strains, some of which we have not witnessed since the advent of our democracy. The aim of this political report is to facilitate a discussion by this Central Committee (CC) to analyse the current political situation in our country and in the ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance, guided by the theme of our last CC meeting - Promoting Unity of the Alliance and our Movement as a whole.

But of fundamental importance to us as a Communist Party at all times, is to safeguard the interests and unity of the working class. As we have always said, there is no contradiction between safeguarding the interests of the working class and maintaining the unity of our Alliance. Instead, a united working class, conscious of its historic political mission, is the only political cement of our Alliance. Safeguarding the interests of the working class and preserving the unity of our Alliance should be the task of every communist, wherever he or she is deployed, and we hope this is going to be the approach with which we tackle the discussions in this Central Committee and beyond.

The recent political period has been characterised by two interrelated but distinct questions. The first one is that of restructuring state assets and privatisation, essentially part of a broader question about the developmental path of our country given the current global and national realities. The second question has been that of the relations between Alliance partners, and indeed the future of the Alliance itself. We would like to argue that, whilst these questions are interlinked, they are also at the same time distinct questions.

Unfortunately, though not unexpected, the media deliberately privileged the question of the Alliance over debating, soberly and frankly, the issues surrounding the question of restructuring of state assets and privatisation. Unfortunately many of us in the Alliance also focused on intra-Alliance relations at the expense of debating the real issues underlying the COSATU general strike. The fact is that irrespective of the political attitude of the various social and political forces regarding the COSATU protest, the strike focused the attention of the nation on the question of the desirability or non-desirability of privatisation in the restructuring of state assets. As the SACP we have a responsibility to properly understand the distinction and relationship between these two issues, in a manner that enables us to focus on the key issues of contention around restructuring of state assets. This by no means relegate to the back-burner the very important question of the Alliance, but we should avoid fudging and conflating these issues such that we are unable to sequence and prioritise our debates properly.

One outcome of this one-sided focus is to delegitimise the issues raised by the leading organised working class formations in our country, stunting the possibilities of a rational, frank and open debate.

There are a number of problems with this approach, which we need to highlight in order to lay a basis for a debate in this. This approach goes against an understanding within the Alliance - mainly in the July 10-a side Alliance meeting, as well as the last Alliance Secretariat before the strike, that there are indeed genuine differences amongst us around the issue of restructuring of state assets and the place of privatisation in that process. Hence our appointment of a task team to systematically identify these areas for further discussion. Therefore, a position that argues that it is not clear what COSATU is unhappy about, nor the Party for that matter, is at variance with this common Alliance understanding that there are indeed genuine differences.

At the same time it would be wrong to simply focus on the (economic) issues at stake without relating this to the broader issues of the role of the ANC-led Alliance in taking forward the debates on these issues. But in discussing the issues relating to the anti-privatisation strike, it is also important that whilst dealing with the specifics, we should locate the debates properly.

Seeking to deepen the National Democratic Revolution on a terrain of capitalism

At its August meeting, the SACP Politburo (PB) noted and discussed the question of the anti-privatisation protest within the context of the general intensified working class struggles in the current period. Whilst cautioning that we must not be tempted to read too much into these wage strikes, the PB emphasised the importance of seeking to understand some of the underlying issues in this regard.

The PB noted that the heightened working class militancy and anger are rooted in what we have been saying over the last few years, the working class, despite important gains made since 1994, has borne the brunt of restructuring in both the public and private sectors over the last decade.

This is but one expression of the difficulties associated with having to transform our society on the terrain of capitalism. Whilst we may debate the appropriate manner in which the working class needs to engage and struggle with this reality, we should not deny the objective reality we face with. The SACP has a duty to consistently point this out, and provide a way forward. As the SACP we have also consistently warned that prosecuting our revolution on this terrain but without sufficiently analysing the contradictions of contemporary capitalism runs the risk of a restructuring process that leaves the fundamental inequalities of our society intact.

The SACP has pointed out in virtually all our CCs and our two Strategy Conferences since our 1998 Congress the manner in which the working has been losing jobs on a massive scale in the recent period. The working class is not only negatively affected by the accumulation regime underway, but also through the absence of mechanisms to ensure sustainable livelihoods for employed workers. The structure of the financial sector in our country - incidentally the target of our major SACP campaign - illustrates this reality graphically.

Government housing subsidies are mainly aimed at the lower end of the market (with earnings of less than R3000-00 per month). Yet a significant section of the organised working class earns between R2 500 and R5 000. At the same time banks are very reluctant to lend to this section of the market. This means that significant section of the working class, predominantly African, falls between the cracks. Many employed workers neither qualify for government subsidies nor for access to bank loans. But the most disadvantaged section of the working class is the informalised sector, which neither has access to banking services nor access to credit. It is estimated that more than 10 million South Africans are unbanked.

It is also the bulk of this working class that is blacklisted in the credit bureaux. This has thrown the working class into the clutches of the loan sharks, negatively affecting sustainable livelihoods. The financial architecture of this accumulation regime essentially subjects the working class not only to the vicissitudes of exploitative production relations, but also to the harshness of the capitalist market. This also closes down alternative means of eking a livelihood through the absence of access to credit for small-scale productive activity.

The PB further noted that if, as the National Liberation Movement, of which we are a part, we are committed to the working class as the key motive force of the National Democratic Revolution, then it is critical that we ensure that the concerns, aspirations and class weight of working people are brought to bear much more fundamentally on the direction of the unfolding NDR. Moreover, it is clear that the COSATU-led actions, starting with the jobs and poverty campaigns last year and the general strike, are having an important resonance beyond the trade union movement, amongst a range of social movement forces. This is a question we need to analyse and debate closely in the current period. What implications does the notion, that the working class is the key motive force of our revolution,have for our actions. Has this now become just a clichÈ or is there a concrete content to it in this current era after the democratic breakthrough?

As the SACP we have argued before that the concrete expression of the working class as a motive force, should, at one level, be expressed by building a privileged relationship between the working class and the democratic state. Surely this does not mean that, therefore, every working class action or position is inherently correct. Underlying this argument is the understanding that in seeking to transform the apartheid state, we are not only seeking to transform the “national” and gender content of the state we inherited, we also need to pay attention to transforming its capitalist character. We have sought to characterise this transformation as the building of a developmental state. But as we have not given enough attention to the class configuration of such a developmental state.

Much more critically, we need to build and strengthen organised working class power as the only basis for building people’s power for transformation in our country. Central to this objective, is the strengthening of the trade union movement as the bedrock upon which to build organised working class power. As part of building the working class movement and understanding the current period and its challenges, we need to analyse even more closely and deeply the class contradiction in the current period, particularly in its articulation with the national and gender questions.

Is it perhaps not time that our developmental path should specifically include a conscious strategy to roll back the capitalist market particularly in the provision of basic services, and seek to mobilise capital within this framework? Should this not be the programmatic perspectives and approach of the ANC and government? It is our considered view that a thorough debate on these issues will help concretise some of our strategic commitments to the working class as a motive force as well as accelerating change for a better life. It will also go a long way in facilitating constructive debate in the Alliance itself.

The SACP, the Alliance and a way forward

As far as we are concerned to us the Alliance is not dead, though we require urgent steps to discuss, frankly and openly, areas of differences, including, in particular, how we implement and monitor common agreements and approaches. We also need to reaffirm observing comradely protocols in the Alliance and act in a manner that strengthens and promotes the unity of full range of each of the Alliance partners and collectively as an Alliance. Blaming leaders instead of engaging with the issues under debate is not acceptable. A prerequisite to this is to accept the independence of each of the Alliance partners as a strength rather than a weakness. Of course, to protect and safeguard the independence of each partner does not mean that there is not interdependence amongst the Alliance partners.

It is absolutely clear now that the major cause of tensions in the Alliance is the lack of political will for collective debates and discussions on key policy questions. Part of the problem is an assumption sometimes from our comrades in government that discussion of key policy choices means “co-determination”, thus constraining government to govern. As we have pointed out before the issue is not so much differences between the ANC and its Alliance partners as it is about differences with government’s economic policies in particular. The way forward therefore is the identification of key (policy) areas of difference and systematically working through these.

It is also our view that if we are to overcome some of the problems in the Alliance, our comrades in government need to stop undue defensiveness and be able rise above the constraints of their portfolios in dealing with the Alliance and its structures. This defensiveness sometimes expresses itself when concerns or criticisms of government policy are raised, this is seen as an attack on government or movement. We need confident and bold leadership to deal with these instances in an open and non-defensive manner.

Is it also not time now that we engage in broader discussions involving our structures and membership at all levels? Part of the problem seems to be that we have limited our debates, particularly economic debates to the very senior leadership of the Alliance. In addition we need to lead by broadening these debates into the progressive mass formations, and sometimes even to the public, but guided and led by the Alliance. This will take us a long way in reconnecting with our own mass constituency, particularly on economic issues.

The SACP should reaffirm that communists must abide by all decisions of the structures in which they serve including government structures. We reaffirm our commitment to defend all these communists, even if some of the policies they are pursuing are in contradiction with some Party positions. Instead, the SACP will raise these differences with the relevant structures rather than personalising them. However, we also expect all members of our Party to defend the unity and integrity of our Party, and not use positions of authority in government to question the integrity of the Party.

The key theses that emerge from these broad concerns are, therefore:

  • the need to affirm and empower the working class as the key motive force of our national liberation struggle;
  • the need to discuss and debate the core economic policy challenges; and
  • the imperative of building Alliance unity, based on a respect for the independence of each of our formations.


Outlining the Key Strategic Challenges

By Professor Derek Swartz Vice Chancellor, University of Fort Hare, Bisho

This paper was presented to a Summit of the ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance in the Eastern Cape, held in September 2001


It would be important to make a few preliminary comments on the nature of the task at hand, and my approach to this task. I have been briefed to develop an outline of issues that, it is hoped, this summit can use to bring into the open, critical, but constructive debate on:

  • major contradictions of the current conjuncture and balance of forces operating within this conjuncture;
  • critical challenges facing the transformation project and the motor forces of revolutionary change;
  • the nature, role and capacity of the Alliance - expressed as the ‘Political Centre’ - in processing the central tasks of the national democratic revolution;
  • strategic options for thinking about the future role of the Alliance in our Province.

The four aspects will form the core of my input today. In attempting to do so, I would like to make some cautionary remarks on the extent to which one is able to live up to this difficult task:

  • firstly, this input merely provides an outline (not a detailed analysis) of a series of complex political issues that may be the subject of discussion today;
  • secondly, I will try to merely summarize (and not rehearse) policy positions that have already been made in past summits and conferences in the Province and nationally;
  • lastly, the paper must be seen as an attempt to provide a basis for discussion - not substantive answers in relation to the problems at hand.

Contradictions of the Present Conjuncture and the Balance of Forces

For purposes of brevity, and assuming that our leadership is fully conversant with the issues at hand, I would like to sketch out, in broad terms, dimensions of the political and economic conjuncture in which the revolutionary movement has to undertake the tasks of the national democratic revolution today. A correct and common understanding of this conjuncture - the terrain of power and struggle - is vital for two reasons; firstly, a correct theory helps us to make the most appropriate political calculations, avoiding the twin dangers of ‘leftwing adventurism’ and ‘rightwing conservatism’; secondly, it also helps us to narrow the grounds of difference amongst the contradictory social forces that constitute our revolutionary movement.

The principal objective of the national democratic revolution (NDR), as we know, is firstly, the liberation of the black majority in general, and the African people in particular, and secondly, in the process of doing so, to create a non-racial democratic society. But whilst we may greatly agree on what is meant by a ‘non-racial’ society (e.g. breaking the back of racism, restoring the dignity of black people, etc.), our views on the form and content of ‘democracy’ in the NDR may yield some sharp differences.

The transition to democratic rule in 1994 as we know, did not follow the insurrectionary path as was envisaged in Morogoro (i.e. seizure of power). It was, in the main, a peaceful transition, involving a process of constitutional ‘transfer’, rather than political or military ‘seizure’ of power. This fact - the mode of power transfer (very different from eg. Vietnam, Nicaragua or Cuba) and, the specific conditions of the conjuncture have had a peculiar effect on the way we have navigated transformation within the state, economy and civil society. The question arises as to which of these conditions is objectively outside of our control, and which factors are a function of tactical mistakes by our movement.

The 1994 electoral victory gave us the political means - state power - to create the foundations of a non-racial democracy. I take it that we all agree that the ‘creation of this democracy’ is a historical process, which may occur over a long period (and different ‘phases’ of development).

The core tasks involved in the construction of the emerging non-racial democracy are the transfer of power, transformation of the state, democratisation of the economy; and de-racialisation of civil society.

The formal transfer of power has been achieved through the establishment of a new constitutional order and the decisive electoral victory of 1994. We have a constitution that guarantees far-reaching democratic tenets such as freedoms of vote, speech, assembly, etc. - all the elements of a modern democracy. But it also contains elements of a bourgeois democratic system, not least, its clauses on property rights, and separation of the political and economic system.

Within the new state, we have been able to secure control over many vital centres of power: national government, 7 (out 9) Provinces, and the majority of local governments. In the core state apparatus, we have been able to increase our power base within and over the military, security and intelligence forces, courts of law, parastatals, and (some) agencies of economic intervention. This has been crucial insofar as we needed to stave off the risks of counter-revolution during the first few years since majority rule.

But the process of state transformation has been difficult. Firstly, we initially under-estimated the complexity of the task at hand, in part, because of an inadequate understanding of the state. We viewed the state as a simple instrument of power. Secondly, there were major political constraints to rapid institutional and social changes in the public service - as a result of the Kempton Park agreement. Thirdly, the coherence of our approach to the challenge of state transformation was undermined by differences over definitions of such strategy - on issues such as restructuring, conditions of service, and delivery - itself leading to much rancour within the Alliance.

In sum, if we look back, we can see differences in the quality and scope of progressive political control and transformation within each of these institutional spheres of the state.

At the level of the economy, political power was inherited within the framework of a monopoly capitalist economic system that is racially-segmented, spatially uneven, and fundamentally undemocratic. In its social structures, capital, for more than three centuries, has used ‘race’ as a means of furthering class division. Its effects last to this day. Black people in general, and the working class in particular, still occupy the bottom tier of this economy. Despite the emergence of a black middle class and efforts to distribute wealth through the state since 1994, the fundamental class inequalities remain. Whites, in general, and the liberal bourgeoisie in particular, still dominate the key sources of economic power, the means of production. In this regard, there has been no fundamental social realignment in the social relations of production.

At a political level, this bourgeoisie still wields enormous power - on the strength of its economic muscle. It supports the largely white opposition parties (NNP and DP), owns large sections of the press, exercises a powerful influence over ‘public opinion’, and through its strong cultural and economic ties with European and North American capital, will remain a formidable force aligned against the democratic movement.

In short, the NDR has to be fought in a balance of power based on the political power of the state (controlled by the majority) being counterbalanced by the economic power of the bourgeoisie.

The co-existence of a ‘democratic political order’ and a ‘capitalist’ economic system raises a series of broader questions for the NDR: How far can we expand the frontiers of democratic participation (especially for the working class) without questioning some fundamental aspects of a class-driven society? Can we accomplish a fundamental de-racialization of the social and economic system within capitalism? In other words, can ‘race’ completely escape the logic of ‘class’?

The politico-economic conjuncture of our struggle today is also circumscribed by the logic of global capitalism - which, in the period after the Cold War, has been undergoing far-reaching transformations. We came to power at a time when the age of capital (and finance capital in particular) had reached an advanced stage of evolutionary maturity. The features of these global economic changes, I think, are now well known, and I will simply mention them in brief.

In its economic moment, this system is manifest in the integration of the circuit of capital accumulation on a global scale; emergence of global production systems; power of finance capital; ‘liberalisation’ of national restrictions on capital flows; and major pressures on national states to reduce the scope of state economic intervention. In its political moment, the new ‘world order’ came about with the asymmetry in the post-Cold War balance of power - the demise of the Soviet Union and rise of US political and economic hegemony (pax Americana).

Globalisation, as we know it today, is distinct from earlier phases of capital expansion in its scope, speed and intensity of class contradictions.

In terms of scope, the current conjuncture has seen the confident expansion of the frontiers of the capitalist system throughout the world - sweeping out competing social relations, including the remnants of socialism in much of Eastern Europe. In terms of speed, capital has successfully harnessed the power of computer technology - combined with the ‘liberalisation’ of macro-economic regimes in most countries - to move surplus value constantly across the frontiers of nation-states. And in terms of the intensity of its contradictions, this system, more than at any other time in history, has sharpened huge social (class) divisions within nation-states, and between north and south.

At the same time, ‘globalisation’ has also created its own antithesis; militant new social movements, within the north and south, with a strong anti-globalisation agenda; resurgence of working class movements, political and trade union-alliances fighting in solidarity against global capital; serious opposition from states in the developing world against the hegemony of the industrialised north.

Within the sphere of the global political economy, the balance of power between the dominant and dominated classes, I think, will be pulled across a number of struggles over; the unbridled power of the ‘market’ and finance capital; the role of international regulatory bodies such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO; the domination of the south by the north; the economic power of elites within the north and south.

Challenges of Transformation and the Alliance

It is, of course, difficult for anyone to accurately predict the precise outcome of the current instability both in the economic and political sphere. There are too many contingent factors at work, and strategy plays as much an important role as the objective conditions that will prevail.

It is, in my view, not a foregone conclusion that the present system will create a stable world order. It is certainly very questionable that it can resolve fundamental contradictions embedded within the logic of capitalism itself (its divisive tendencies). The signs are already there that the rate of capital accumulation of the past ten years cannot be sustained - at least not without invoking - as is inevitable in capitalism - counter-tendencies to revalorise the accumulation process (eg. Via, for example, mass retrenchments, social dislocation, even war).

Challenges in the Economy

What is clear is that the same contradictions are affecting the political economy of post-apartheid South Africa - and thus, the pathway of the national democratic revolution. The ‘opening’ up of our economy since 1994 has further extended the reach of global capital into the domestic economy; and conversely, further deepened the links of domestic with foreign capitals.

The imminent ‘recession’ facing the US economy, despite efforts to avert its onset, is already having a ripple effect across the globe, particularly, in the south. A week after Sept 11, we are witnessing unprecedented capital movements, ‘readjustments’ within the industrialised economies, withdrawal of foreign investments (from developing economies), and major lay-offs in labour.

If the global economy does enter into a long-term downturn (recession), there is no question that foreign direct investment in South Africa will take a nosedive, and to the extent that major aspects of our industrial and economic strategy are dependent on the flow of such capital, we are facing enormous risks.

If, on aggregate, capital outflows exceed inflows into the taxable economy, this will, in time, directly affect the state, which is at once removed from, but directly dependent on, the economy. Firstly, revenue will be the first to come under stress, in time, limiting the room for manoeuvre in social expenditure. If this continues, money will have to be moved from some to other policy priorities, leading to difficult choices. Secondly, as the rate of profit falls further, the economy may experience greater capital concentration, narrowing the social basis of economic control and downward pressure on wages.

The contradictions in the structures of capitalism, of course, find their way through to the policy domain. What should be the form of ‘economic restructuring’ required for growing the domestic economy under these conditions? Are there aspects of social life, where ‘privatization’ is wholly inappropriate and are there aspects where this can be contemplated? Moreover, are other forms of economic ownership tenable and possible? I think these questions have become burning issues on the agenda of the Alliance forces today.

Challenges in the State and Cadre Deployment:

Beyond the economy, we have been in the throes of a concerted campaign since 1994, to gain control over, and transform, the state. We have been on a sharp learning curve. Firstly, initial conceptions of the state as a simple instrument of power have now given way to a more complex understanding of its contradictory character. The state, we now know, is not only a contradictory instrument, but also a terrain of struggle. In other words, we cannot assume that mere deployment of cadres - no matter how committed - is sufficient to ensure the state carries out the tasks of social transformation. Cadre deployment must also be accompanied by institutional transformation - that is, changes in the internal character of the state machinery.

But the issue of cadre deployment itself has been a problem. In the Alliance, we have not yet quite provided a proper conceptual and strategic framework for this to be managed. Since 1994, we have moved thousands of our cadres into the old institutions with the expectation that they will carry out the tasks of the NDR. Once there, we have not sufficiently supported them. We have not trained them in the politics of institutional transformation. We have not equipped ourselves with an adequate understanding of this terrain. Over time, many of our cadres, once loyal and committed, have become ‘like the bureaucrats they first encountered’, disillusioned and demoralised.

With respect to ‘institutional transformation’, we have been putting in place a whole spectrum of policies since 1994: the White Paper on Public Service Transformation (1995), Public Service Regulations (1996), Batho Pele (1996) and so on. A key element of this project is to change the nature of the state machinery - ‘restructuring’ - in order to become more effective in serving the objective tasks of the NDR. This strategy, insofar as it involves the possible loss of employment for certain categories of employees, has become a contested terrain within the Alliance.

It poses the question as to whether we can still achieve state restructuring whilst avoiding massive losses in labour - and whether we have been creative enough in thinking through all options. How do we push our ‘political managers’ beyond simply reducing ‘restructuring’ to ‘retrenchment’; and how do we push our union leadership to move beyond ‘defending’ job losses at all costs to providing alternative forms of job creation within and beyond the state?

Defining the ‘Political Centre’

In debates on the future of the Alliance there has been much mention of the issue of ‘who leads the Alliance’ and what governs its leadership. There is agreement that the ANC leads the Alliance - a position earned on the strength of its history, character and role. This position, I presume, remains unquestionable amongst the core of our democratic forces. Historically, the liberation movement spearheaded the struggle against apartheid, and was the only organisation with the strategic capability of bringing down the apartheid state. In terms of its character, the ANC, uniquely, has been able to bring together a broad spectrum of social forces committed to the strategic objectives of the NDR. And this character, in turn, has enabled the movement to play the role of a national democratic movement - different from the party and the trade union movement. I would suggest that this premier role is not in question here.

The issue, rather, is how does the ANC exercise its leadership in and through the Alliance. This question brings into focus the debate about the need to create and strengthen the ‘political centre’. What is the political centre, and how is it to be governed to guide the NDR?

There appears to be differences in the way comrades view this issue within the democratic movement. Some comrades argue on the basis of what could be termed a ‘restrictive’ concept - wherein the ANC is the political centre, and holds the right to define issues for collective decision-making, and issues for individual decision-making. Other comrades argue on the strength of an ‘expanded’ concept of the political centre - in which the Alliance is the political centre, bringing under its collective decision-making structures all the critical issues regarding the NDR. It is an issue that we should perhaps discuss in the summit today, and offer recommendations to the national debate on this issue.

A second issue relates to the capacity of the ‘political centre’ to manage and process the tasks outlined in a minimum programme of action. Do we have the cadre, not only at the executive levels of the three constituent organizations - ANC, Cosatu and SACP - but also, at the middle and grassroots levels to implement a clear political line? Are they adequately trained, and do they share the same organic understanding of this line?

Moreover, the Alliance needs to set out some clear rules - a protocol - that must govern the manner in which Alliance leaders interact, both in caucus and in public. Recent spats between our most senior cadre at national level does not assist the cause of revolutionary democracy. It does not, first of all, set an example for cadres. It also makes room for opportunities within our ranks as well as detractors outside of our ranks, to exploit differences of opinion over strategy. I would hope that our province can set an example for more cohesive political management of the Alliance and its affairs.

Strategic Choices for the Future

The success of the NDR, in my view, is premised on its capacity to unite and marshal into struggle the most ‘strategically-significant’ social forces committed to fundamental equality - the black working class, rural poor and unemployed, radical petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. They all have a common interest in overturning the legacy of racism and colonialism that can only be achieved through the liberation of all black people. The question is, of course, what is the content of that ‘liberation’ and how can this best be achieved?

In my view, it is unlikely that any single one of these social forces has the capacity to carry out the revolutionary tasks alone. Simultaneously, if the cohesion of this multi-class alliance is fragmented, we will undoubtedly risk major instability, if not reversals in gains made so far.

To the extent that this is true, it becomes imperative for the Alliance forces to firstly, remain absolutely clear on the comparative benefits about why it is essential to keep the alliance intact; and secondly, reaching consensus on the minimum of issues around which there is unambiguous agreement. The first task, I think, is done by simply contemplating the disastrous consequences that will befall our collective movement if this historic alliance falls apart - including, polarisation within the black majority, serious weakening of the state, and social instability.

The second task, I think, requires us to come to agreement on a minimum programme of action with respect to the central tasks (goals) ahead, and how these tasks are to be carried out (strategy). If this is correct, it would seem as if the critical areas for agreement reside within debates about the transformation of the state, democratisation of the economy, and de-racialisation of civil society outlined above. It will also, furthermore, require us to develop more detailed common strategies with which this is to be achieved.

Comrades, it is hoped this input at least provides an outline of some of the critical issues facing us today. I think it is the duty of this summit to grapple with answers to these questions. At least one hopes that the right kinds of questions have been posed - as this will at least be one step in the direction of finding the answers.


Letter from Peter Mokaba

Peter Mokaba is a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and works as Head of Elections at the ANC Head Office.

To All delegates at the ANC-SACP Bilateral Meeting held in October 2001.

The recent ANC-SACP bilateral meeting and the events preceding were a great revelation that has raised a great deal of concern about the politics, ideology and practices of the alliance.

At that meeting, the ANC asked whether it would be correct to say that the SACP viewed its fundamental difference with the ANC as being based on the adoption by the ANC of a neo-liberal agenda, whereas the SACP was committed to building a people’s economy, consistent with its objective of building socialism now.

The ANC went further to say that even such matters as the understanding of globalisation were affected by this divide, with the SACP having determined that this globalisation was part of the neo-liberal agenda, whereas the ANC advocated a position of finding an accommodation with globalisation.

As I recall, the SACP said that the ANC was incorrect in its assessment. The SACP said that what it was referring to was the reality that neo-liberalism was the ideology of the dominant class, and therefore the greatest threat to the national democratic revolution (NDR).

Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for the SACP to explain who the ruling class in South Africa is. Clearly if it is the bourgeoisie, this must mean that its ideas, namely neo-liberalism, are dominant. In this case, even against its will, according to this thesis, as the ruling party, the ANC would then be obliged to implement the ideas of this dominant class.

Personally, I hope that we will return to this discussion so that all of us are clear about our understanding of our current epoch.

However, the SACP has been making various statements that suggest that the ANC was correct in its assessment.

It may be that some members of the SACP leadership, has not paid close attention to public statements made in the name of the SACP.

Subsequent to that meeting the SACP issued a further response to the ANC “Briefing Notes on the Alliance” document. The document entitled “Defend the Unity of our alliance, defend democratic debate - An SACP Politburo Discussion Document”, takes issue with the ANC’s Briefing Notes on the Alliance. The SACP complains about “other features of the document which could lead to ...the discouraging of debate for fear of being labeled, to a dogmatic closing of ranks in the face of a greatly exaggerated anti-ANC “left tendency” and even to witch-hunts. The danger is that divisions may be deepened within the alliance, and within the ANC itself...(NB the ANC documents refers to “ultra left tendency” and not “left tendency”).

It is interesting that the SACP now recognises that there are divisions and not ‘mere secondary differences’ as the SACP has argued before. This, in spite of the fact that the SACP have refused to call the general political strike by its proper name, namely, an expression of division and ression of a vote of no confidence in the government

In short, the SACP responses seek to defend the what it refers to as “ a minority but significant anti-ANC left tendency...” which the SACP acknowledges “remains within COSATU” only. But this tendency is not a threat, argues the Party. “In the judgment of the Party,” “the principle strategic threat to our NDR does not remotely come from this quarter”. However, “It is true that if some of the more naÔve programmes of this tendency were to be implemented they could weaken our liberation effort and expose our revolution to right-wing destabilisation”.

The Party continues to justify its support of what it refers to as the “COSATU-led August strike”. It says, “But COSATU (and the SACP in supporting the strike) were at pains to insist that this was not a strike against government, but against aspects of government policy in defence, precisely, of broadening the ANC-controlled democratic public sector. The minority ultra-left tendency may have harboured other aspirations for the strike. It is disappointing that the ANC document gives credence to these aspirations - as if the estimated 40 percent of the South African working class that went on the strike wanted to remove the ANC government”.

The main problem here is that of lack of honesty and lack of revolutionary political and ideological, integrity, education and conduct. The SACP in its maneuvering simply refuses to associate itself with the age-old Marxist Leninist understanding of issues as well as the basic truth

The facts are that, it is not the ANC document but precisely COSATU and the SACP that billed the action as a General Strike -a political strike, intended as a mass strike which would involve students, civics etc. to “ sustain a mood of anger, frustration and despair among Cosatu members”, said secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi (Business Day, 10 September 2001). “The ANC are forced to listen to what the workers say. If they do not, we cannot spell out what will happen, but workers have the power to do what we did to the National Party government” (The Star, 30 August 2001). In the Star of 23 August 2001 Cosatu president Willie Madisha reportedly “warned, a ‘real war’ was on the cards...”; “Amid ululating masses who vowed to ‘crush the government if it continues to sell public-owned enterprises”; “There will be blood on the floor”, warned Zwelinzima Vavi in earlier reports. In its Section 77 Notice to NedLac Cosatu simply states, “ The Protest is directed at the government of South Africa, Union Buildings, Pretoria”.

The intended ‘General Strike’ indeed failed and dismally so. It was bound to fail. Now that it has failed there are attempts to redefine the intention instead of accepting the truth. The problem about it is not only that the timing was bad but that the whole action was wrong politically, ideologically, organisationally and had no objective and subjective basis in the South African context let alone within the Tripartite alliance. I raise the question again, “what was the basis of the SACP’s support of the ‘general strike’? Was SACP support principled or tactical or strategic or an error of judgment or sheer opportunism?

Where is the truth, consistency and honesty in the SACP responses in general and to the ANC briefings on the Alliance and questions raised at the bilateral in particular?

The problem is political and ideological weaknesses. What informs SACP theory and practice? Is it still Marxism-Leninism, scientific socialism and historical and dialectical materialism? Which classics, what international experience of Communist Parties and what South African realities inform SACP theory and practice?

I await answers to these questions so that we are all exposed to the underlying reasoning and the assumptions of the Party’s theories and practice. Is this still a Party of socialism?

I ask these questions because “SACP” positions, part of the programmes the SACP and COSATU are opposed to are among those that were seen as important and essential by the fathers of scientific socialism and current practices of the international socialist movement. Among these are questions of organising “competition”, “introduction of the private sector in the development and production of basic services”, which the Party and COSATU are opposed to “in principle” (a view that is loaded with great suspicion against money- a product of labour.)

The SACP and COSATU are worried about the ANC’s programmes to attract foreign direct investment and and “Black economic empowerment” etc. They counter-pose this to what they call a “domestic people’s economy”. According to the SACP and COSATU, the provision of basic services in a “people’s economy” must be ‘ring-fenced’ as a monopoly of the state and must rely on increased taxation and public debt. They fetish capital and seek to enhance people’s, particularly workers’ alienation from the product of their own labour simply because the structure of capitalist society has placed the bulk of it in the hands of the capitalists. Workers, to remain ‘revolutionary’ and pure, must walk away from their expropriated labour and bury their hopes in the illusion of mush called a ‘people’s economy’ pursuit through “people’s summits” away from the highway of social development.

But what did the fathers of scientific socialism, the current international Communist practice and our own South African and African experience say about these matters? It is my understanding that some among the SACP delegates are unhappy that some of us from the ANC delegation have quoted from Marx, Engels and Lenin and sought to apply the principles of historical materialism to our current national and international realities. They protest that is dogma. But what is their new ‘living’ ideology? In short they blame us for having both memory and thought for seeking to develop and improve the art and science of revolutionary social democratic theory and practice. At the risk of exposing myself to their renewed wrath I would like to refer them to Lenin on the Organisation of Competition:

“Among the absurdities which the bourgeoisie are fond of spreading about socialism is the allegation that socialists deny the importance of competition. In fact, it is only in socialism which ... for the first opens the way for competition on a really mass scale...” (Lenin Vol. 2, The immediate tasks of the Soviet Government, p 602).

The SACP released a statement entitled: Defend and Extend the Public Sector for a People’s Economy: Notes for SACP Intervention around the COSATU Anti-Privatisation Strike: Build Working Class Power to Build a People’s Economy.

This statement claimed that “As a party of socialism the SACP is both ideologically opposed to privatisation in principle, and practically and programmatically we are concerned about many features of the current restructuring of state assets.

“The struggle against privatisation is part of escalating working class struggles rooted in neo-liberal restructuring of our economy over the last decade.

“The South African working class is unequivocally saying that it can take the arrogance and agenda of neo-liberalism no more.

“If indeed as an alliance we are committed to the working class as the key motive force of our revolution, then it is critical that we ensure that the concerns, aspirations and class weight of working people is brought to bear much more fundamentally on the direction of the unfolding revolution.

“The main twin of inequalities is a growing ideological discourse, which practically translates into asking the working class, in the name of broader revolutionary understanding, to approach the transition and the current period from class interests other than its own.

“The general strike is a clear message to the bosses and government that our country’s economic policy will no longer be dominated by the bosses and their narrow selfish interests.

“Important as these struggles are, it is however important that these struggles are extended into an offensive against capitalism itself and as building blocks for a bigger war to build working class power. And thus the importance of using these struggles to send a strong and powerful signal to local and foreign private capital that the working class will fight the pressure to privatise, liberalise and deregulate the labour market. Instead, we will fight to build a state-led economic growth and development path based on the mobilisation of domestic capital resources to meet our people’s basic needs, create jobs and build infra-structure. To the capitalist vultures waiting to devour our publicly owned assets, we say keep out.

In another statement entitled: Towards an Economic Strategic Perspective, the SACP said:

“Another way of posing these questions is to ask whether, over the last four or five years, within our country there has not been a lopsided but dominant partnership between two ideological currents - a variant of neo-liberalism and a variant of Africanism? The former has spearheaded the “modernisation” and “liberalisation” (an opening up to the global economy) of our economy - a domestic structural adjustment programme (“it is better that we should self-impose the necessary restructuring, rather than have it thrust upon us by the IMF and World Bank”); the latter has articulated the sectoral interests of an emerging/aspiring black bourgeoisie, and has ensured that “black economic empowerment” has been a key theme inserted into the neo-liberal discourse. Insofar as the neo-liberal paradigm has been adjusted, it has been partially and minimally adjusted to include a BEE dimension.

Privatisation, the search for strategic equity partners, the deregulation of industrial sectors, etc. have been justified partly by invoking the established neo-liberal paradigm and partly by invoking “black economic empowerment”.

“There is much that needs to be said about this hybrid afro-neo-liberalism - including the fact that the capitalist neo-liberal agenda has not even really been able yet to fully accommodate in a sustainable way the aspirations of an emergent black bourgeoisie.

In his Address to the Chris Hani National Memorial Rally in April 2001 the General Secretary of the SACP, continued with this analysis.

These SACP statements clearly indicate that the ANC was correct in its assessment. A collateral issue that arises is why the SACP delegates thought the ANC was wrong and said so, despite the facts.

We will then have to discuss the actual content of the assertion of the SACP that the ANC has adopted a neo-liberal agenda.

In this regard, given that the SACP claims to be a Marxist-Leninist party, I would like to draw your attention to some observations made by Karl Marx in Das Kapital. In this context, you will also recall that I proposed that we should also discuss the theory of socialism advanced by the SACP today.

The first extract from Marx relates to the issue of the budget deficit and fiscal management. I raise this because the SACP has, in part, focused on this as part of its denunciation of the “neo-liberal” policies of the ANC as reflected, in particular, in GEAR.

As you will see, Marx unequivocally characterised the accumulation of the national debt, caused by reliance on budget deficits, as a critical part of the capitalist process of “the expropriation of the masses”. It puzzles me greatly that people who claim to be adherents of Marx should go to war against the ANC when it takes decisive steps to wipe out our national debt.

This is what Marx wrote more than a hundred years ago:

“The system of public credit, i.e., of national debts, whose origin we discover in Genoa and Venice as early as the middle ages, took possession of Europe generally during the manufacturing period. The colonial system with its maritime trade and commercial wars served as a forcing house for it. Thus it first took root in Holland. National debts, i.e., the alienation of the state - whether despotic, constitutional or republican - marked with its stamp the capitalist era. The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possession of modern people is - their national debt. Hence, as a necessary consequence, the modern doctrine that a nation becomes the richer the more it is in debt. Public credit becomes the credo of capital. And with the rise of national debt-making, want of faith in the national debt takes the place of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which may not be forgiven.

“The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter’s wand, it endows barren money with the power of breeding and thus turns it into capital, without the necessity of its exposing itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment in industry or even in usury. The state-creditors actually give nothing away, for the sum lent is transformed into public bonds, easily negotiable, which go on functioning in their hands just as so much hard cash would. But further, apart from the class of lazy annuitants thus created...the national debt has given rise to joint-stock companies, to dealings in negotiable effects of all kinds, and to agiotage, in a word to stock-exchange gambling and the modern bankocracy...

“With the national debt arose an international credit system, which often conceals one of the sources of primitive accumulation in this or that people. Thus the villainies of the Venetian thieving system formed one of the secret bases of the capital-wealth of Holland to whom Venice in her decadence lent large sums of money. So also was it with Holland and England...One of (Holland’s) main line of business, therefore, from 1701-1776, is the lending out of enormous amounts of capital, especially to its great rival England. The same thing is going on today between England and the United States. A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any certificate of birth, was yesterday, in England, the capitalised blood of children.

“As the national debt finds its support in the public revenue, which must cover the yearly payments of interest, &c., the modern system of taxation was the necessary complement of the system of national loans...Modern fiscality, whose pivot is formed by taxes on the most necessary means of subsistence (thereby increasing their price), thus contains within itself the germ of automatic progression. Over-taxation is not an incident, but rather a principle. In Holland, where this system was first inaugurated, the great patriot, De Witt, has in his “Maxims” extolled it as the best system for making the wage-labourer submissive, frugal, industrious, and overburdened with labour...

“The great part that the public debt, and the fiscal system corresponding with it, has played in the capitalisation of wealth and the expropriation of the masses, has led many writers, like Cobbett, Doubleday and others, to seek in this, incorrectly, the fundamental cause of the misery of the modern peoples.” (Capital Vol. 1, Karl Marx: Progress Publishers, Moscow (being a reprint of the 1887 edition): pp 706-8.)

The SACP has also taken issue with the ANC on the issue of globalisation, asserting that globalisation is a manifestation of the neo-liberal agenda, a product of the “Washington consensus”.

On the other hand, the ANC has been arguing that globalisation is an objective social process in which we must intervene to ensure that the masses of the people in our country and the countries of the South in particular, do not suffer further impoverishment and marginalisation.

My own reading of Marx, says to me that he saw the emergence of a world market, globalisation, as a natural and explicable result of the development of the means and forces of production during the capitalist era.

When he wrote, there was no “Washington consensus” so identified. Neither was there a neo-liberal agenda as defined today. There was bourgeois political economy, which Marx vigorously contested. I doubt if his thoughts, including those that follow below, could be said to represent his surrender to the ideas of the dominant class of his day.

Here is what Marx said:

“So soon, however, as the factory system has gained a certain breadth of footing and a definite degree of maturity, and, especially, so soon as its technical basis, machinery, is itself produced by machinery; so soon as coal mining and iron mining, the metal industries, and the means of transport have been revolutionised; so soon, in short, as the general conditions requisite for production by the modern industrial system have been established, this mode of production acquires an elasticity, a capacity for sudden extensions by leaps and bounds that finds no hindrance except in the supply of raw material in the same way, for example, as the cotton gin augmented the production of cotton. On the other hand, the cheapness of the articles produced by machinery, and the improved means of transport and communication furnish the weapons for conquering foreign markets. By ruining handicraft production in other countries, machinery forcibly converts them into fields for the supply of its raw material. In this way East India was compelled to produce cotton, wool, hemp, jute, and indigo for Great Britain. By constantly making a part of the hands “supernumerary”, modern industry, in all countries where it has taken root, gives a spur to emigration and to the colonisation of foreign lands, which are thereby converted into settlements for growing the raw material of the mother country; just as Australia, for example, was converted into a colony for growing wool. A new and international division of labour, a division suited to the requirements of the chief centres of modern industry springs up, and converts one part of the globe into a chiefly agricultural field of production, for supplying the other part which remains a chiefly industrial field...

“The enormous power, inherent in the factory system, of expanding by jumps, and the dependence of the system on the markets of the world, necessarily beget feverish production, followed by over-filling of the markets, whereupon contraction of the markets brings on crippling of production...The uncertainty and instability to which machinery subjects the employment, and consequently the conditions of existence, of the operatives become normal, owing to these periodic changes of the industrial cycle...

“(Growth) is conditioned by the ebb and flow of the industrial cycle. It is, besides, constantly interrupted by the technical progress that one time virtually supplies the place of new workmen, at another, actually displaces old ones. This qualitative change in mechanical industry continually discharges hands from the factory, or shuts its doors against the fresh stream of recruits, while the purely quantitative expansion of the factories absorbs not only the men thrown out of work, but also fresh contingents. The workpeople are thus continually both repelled and attracted, hustled from pillar to post, while, at the same time, constant changes take place in the sex, age, and skill of the levies.” (Karl Marx op cit: pp 424-8).

Marx also says:

“One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralisation, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever-extending scale, the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and with this, the international character of the capitalist regime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself.” (Karl Marx op cit pp 714-5).

With regard to the issue of globalisation, we should also keep in mind the comments made by Marx in the earlier passages we cited above, relating to fiscal matters. In these passages, Marx also discusses the export (globalisation) of capital as loan finance.

He writes of the emergence of international credit and therefore the formation of international capital markets.

I would also like to draw your attention to what he says about growth that is “constantly interrupted by the technical progress that one time virtually supplies the place of new workmen, at another, actually displaces old ones. This qualitative change in mechanical industry continually discharges hands from the factory, or shuts its doors against the fresh stream of recruits.”

He also writes of “ the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil.”

It is clear that Marx understand very well the impact of science and technology of the functioning and impact of the capitalist mode of production. This same point is being made today with regard to the impact of information and communication technology as well as biotechnology.

None of the above suggests that the process of globalisation is a subjective invention of a neo-liberal cabal located in Washington and slavishly imitated by an “Afro-neo-liberal” group of traitors to the NDR located in Pretoria.

Of course, I accept that none of the comments made by Marx should be treated as though they were biblical or other sacred scripts. The evolution of human society might have rendered them obsolete.

However, their strength lies in the fact they reflect a process of rigorous scientific inquiry, necessarily informed by the conditions and the level of knowledge at the time that Das Kapital was written.

If they have been overtaken by time, those who might claim they have been, including the Marxist-Leninist SACP, will have to substantiate that claim scientifically. Similarly, they will have to present their own scientific analysis of the phenomena that Karl Marx sought to explain.

In this sphere, nothing should be advanced as self-evident truth because all truth must necessarily be verifiable. Beliefs, of course, are another matter. But then, they must be stated as beliefs, with as high a standing in the intellectual discourse as all other beliefs, including those that are sometimes described as superstition.

It would seem to me that, in our next bilateral meeting, we must deal with the issues raised in this letter.

I say this because the SACP, and not the ANC, has asserted that the great divide between us is neo-liberalism on one side of the street, and the people’s economy on the other.

The SACP claims that this people’s economy will not only address the concerns of the poor, but will address its programmatic objective to “build socialism now”.

The SACP then goes on to claim that the ANC pursues a neo-liberal agenda which will not only further impoverish the masses, but will also further entrench the domination of a slightly deracialised bourgeoisie, contrary to the most basic tenets of the NDR.

In this context, the conclusion becomes inescapable that the SACP is therefore alleging that the ANC is nothing more than a running dog of the dominant and neo-liberal ruling class.

If the positions advanced by the SACP are correct, then the Alliance is in grave trouble and cannot be saved without a fundamental change of direction, especially on the part of the ANC.

The gravity of this situation demands that we examine in the greatest detail and with the greatest frankness all the theoretical positions advanced both by the ANC and the SACP so that we arrive at very clear positions.

It also demands that we examine, in detail, the content and the outcomes of the economic policies we have pursued since 1994, among other things to see whether what the SACP claims is the truth or a bundle of lies.

The result of this exercise will also tell all of us who we are in reality and whether all of us remain true to the tradition of our movement of telling no lies and claiming no easy victories.

It should also give an opportunity to the SACP to demonstrate their understanding of Marxism-Leninism, of socialism as a science and of socialist theory in the aftermath of the collapse of socialism. As I understand it, to be a communist does not merely consist in owning a membership card of the SACP and mistaking trade unionism for revolutionary class consciousness. The emergence of “Communists without Marxism-Leninism” is a new and interesting experience. But it is dangerous.

Lenin advises revolutionary movements “No profound and mighty popular movement has ever occurred in history without dirty scum rising to the top, without adventurers and rogues, boasters and ranters attaching themselves to the inexperienced innovators, without absurd muddle and fuss, without individual “leaders” trying to deal with twenty matters at once and not finishing any of them. Let the lap-dogs of bourgeois society, squeal and yelp about every chip that is sent flying in cutting down the big, old wood. What else are lap-dogs for if not to yelp at the proletarian elephant. Let them yelp. We shall go our way and try as carefully and as patiently as possible to test and discover real organizers, people with sober and practical minds, people who combine loyalty to socialism with ability without fuss (and in spite of muddle and) to get a large number of people working together steadily and concertedly ...”.

Let me assure the SACP and its members that “discouraging debate ... and even to witch-hunt” has never been the practice in the ANC and the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance. In this revolutionary movement there has always been freedom of expression based on the true principles of constructive criticism and self-criticism of open debate. There will be no witch-hunt except that the witches of the ultra-left tendency should not seek to lodge and hide themselves in the woodworks of the Tripartite Alliance and its component and blame us when we look for them. We need maximum unity of our people, the ANC the Tripartite alliance and its components. No cadre or leader should afford to be afraid to speak their minds as they wish. The time is for men and women, cadres and leaders who have conviction of their ideas and are therefore forever ready to place them before all of us for discussions.

At all costs and as we go forward, we must avoid prevarication and obfuscation. The truth must be told, however hurtful to some. We should not maintain “friendship” among ourselves on the basis of telling one another lies.

We should not base the Alliance on history or on the false premise that because we meet occasionally, the Alliance exists as a united and cohesive force for progressive change. There is no threat facing the Alliance, despite the many media predictions of its impending collapse.

Neither with the organised workers of our country seek to attach themselves to unprincipled elements who pose as part of the national liberation movement, even as they lament the collapse of the racist conglomeration represented by the Democratic Alliance, on the basis that our democracy needs such a racist opposition to thrive as an ideal democracy.

Each and every one of us, as leaders of the Alliance, must be ready to face our organised structures and the masses we lead, to explain our words and our actions. Each and every one of us will have to explain to the satisfaction of these cadres, members and supporters whether the things we have done and said are in their interest and that of the NDR.

The time when we could hide behind nice and correct words and slogans, while doing wrong things, has passed. I am certain that at this time of the roll call - ma ebizwa amagama amaqhawe - the ANC will not be found wanting. I know too, that many in the SACP and COSATU will not be found wanting. There is no longer any place to hide.


A response to Peter Mokaba

By Jeremy Cronin, SACP Deputy General Secretary

Towards the end of his intervention on the “ANC-SACP Bilateral Meeting” (dated November 5), cde Peter Mokaba has a telling quote from Lenin. Lenin notes that “no profound and mighty popular movement has ever occurred in history without...adventurers and rogues, boasters and ranters” being tossed up. In the often brutal polemical language of his time, Lenin refers to these personalities as “dirty scum rising to the top”. Lenin contrasts these by-products of any genuinely broad popular movement with the kind of socialist cadres who are required, “people with sober and practical minds”. In this response to cde Mokaba’s intervention, I will do my very best to be sober and practical, to avoid any boasting or ranting.

Personally, I think that Mokaba’s intervention is theoretically weak and factually misguided. However, to his credit Mokaba is, at least, attempting some of the time to move our debate away from an exchange of polemical labels, and to ask more searching theoretical questions. There are five points in cde Mokaba’s intervention that I would like to dwell upon. Three concern specific, if general, issues directly raised by cde Mokaba. They relate to the SACP’s approach to:budget deficits, competition and globalisation.

One concerns the character of the SACP’s critique of neo-liberalism, or, more specifically, whom exactly are we “indicting” of neo-liberalism?

And, finally, I would like to reflect briefly on the overall style and character of Mokaba’s intervention, using this to ask what I believe to be a fundamental question: What kind of discussion/debate are we trying to have in our bilateral and tripartite alliance engagements?

The question of the budget deficit

According to cde Mokaba, a central aspect of the SACP’s critique of the “ANC’s neo-liberal” GEAR is our rejection of the commitment to reduce the budget deficit. (A commitment government has, of course, achieved very effectively, in practice). He is puzzled by what he assumes to be the Party position. “Marx”, he writes, “unequivocally characterised the accumulation of the national debt, caused by the reliance on budget deficits, as a critical part of the capitalist process of the expropriation of the masses. It puzzles me greatly that people who claim to be adherents of Marx should go to war against the ANC when it takes decisive steps to wipe out our national debt.”

Cde Mokaba then proceeds to quote extensively from Marx’s Capital on the historical function of the “public (or national) debt”. The passages are extremely rich and suggestive, but they are not confined, as cde Peter implies, to a simple moral condemnation of the way in which (in Holland, England and later in the US - these are the examples evoked by Marx) emerging national bourgeoisies used “public debt” to expropriate wealth from the masses. Marx’s moral condemnation is certainly there, but much more central to Marx’s concerns in these passages from Capital is a scientific analysis of an objective process - namely, how the development of capitalist forces of production requires a “primitive accumulation” process, one key aspect being the incurring of major “public/national debts”. The public pays for a debt that fuels capitalist expansion, the debt is public, but the profits are private. “The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation”, Marx writes, and cde Peter quotes. But has cde Peter grasped the real significance of all of this?

It is not the just the birth of national capitalist systems that requires an accumulation (in this case a primitive accumulation) strategy. Attempts to build socialist societies in the Soviet Union or the PRC, for instance, have involved major accumulation drives, including the expropriation of exploiting classes. The post-1945 capitalist recoveries in Western Europe involved major accumulation strategies that combined high welfare taxation regimes with incoming (largely US) aid and investment. The Asian Tigers in the 1970s deliberately ran up budget deficits, as part of their accumulation and take-off strategies. The financial resources temporarily released by these budget deficits were not, however, directed into consumption spending, but were driven strategically into major industrial policy measures (economic infrastructure, low interest loans to private national industries, skills training, etc.). The significant levels of accelerating growth achieved in the more successful cases meant that there were rising standards of living that generally more than compensated for the public burden of debt repayment.

The question that arises from all of this is not whether a national debt is a morally good or bad thing, but what should be our own post-apartheid accumulation strategy?

The SACP believes that there is no simple, univocal answer to this question. The whole-sale expropriation of exploiting classes is probably an unrealistic strategy, given the current global and national balance of forces. What are the possibilities for a more redistributionist tax regime and other redistribution measures to shift wealth away from the historic beneficiaries of apartheid towards an accumulation process that can drive broad-based growth and development? We should certainly explore this dimension (and there are many practical government policies that are already being implemented in this direction). But the SACP is willing to admit that there may be constraints in this path, again given the class balance of forces. Nor does South Africa in 2001 have the space accorded to the Asian Tiger societies in the late 1960s and 70s, all of them former front-line states in the Cold War era. We probably could not run up budget deficits (or protectionist measures) of the magnitude many of them were once permitted.

If our understanding of GEAR is right, then the accumulation process it envisages is essentially premised on attracting major flows of foreign direct investment (FDI). And these flows are to be achieved through two fundamental policy choices:

  • Achieving investor friendly macro balances, including a major reduction in the budget deficit and reducing, and then maintaining, low inflation; and
  • Privatisation - with a target of some R40 billion in privatisation proceeds to be realised over the coming three years.

In assessing these policy choices, I believe that some of us in the SACP (and I include myself) have sometimes been rather too shrill. We should tone down some of our public rhetoric. Indeed, this is a decision we came to more than two years back, and to which we have tried to stick, perhaps not always with consistency.

Attracting FDI has, certainly, to be a component of any accumulation strategy in the concrete conditions in which we find ourselves in South Africa. But this does not mean that the SACP, or the ANC, should simply accept the specific GEAR policy choices without submitting them to thorough analysis, and ongoing evaluation. It is in this spirit that the SACP has queried some of the underlying assumptions of GEAR.

I will not go into the detail of our concerns here, other than to say that our concerns include an uncertainty as to whether exceptionally constraining macro targets and privatisation are indeed the best means of attracting major and sustainable flows of FDI capable of powering ongoing growth and development. We believe that FDI follows growth, rather than triggering it, and we believe that growth requires much more effective mobilisation of domestic resources (public, parastatal, private and social) around a coherent industrial (or micro-economic) policy.

In regard to the specific issue raised by cde Mokaba (reducing the budget deficit), we agree with many of our colleagues in government, including the Minister of Finance, cde Trevor Manuel, who have repeatedly stated in recent years that there is “no magic” in macro targets. The key question is not whether the ideal budget deficit target should be 0% or 2% or 5%, but what prime strategic purpose that particular target should serve. We would prefer to see a budget deficit target set at this stage that is optimal for the effective mobilisation of domestic resources around a coherent industrial policy. We think that the current budget deficit targets are, instead, premised more on assumptions about what will best attract putative FDI flows.

This is the kind of “sober and practical” discussion we hope that we can take forward in our alliance debates. Rhetorical flourishes, finger-pointing and demonisation, from all sides, including our own, simply make such a discussion impossible. We need to take corrective steps to ensure that none of us is responsible for such distracting noise.


I find it difficult to follow all of what Mokaba is asserting on this topic in his intervention. But certainly part of his argument is that the SACP (and COSATU) oppose “competition”, specifically in the provision of basic services, and in so doing we are being anti-Leninist. Cde Peter quotes from Lenin: “Among the absurdities which the bourgeoisie are fond of spreading about socialism is the allegation that socialists deny the importance of competition. In fact, it is only socialism...that for the first time opens the way for competition on a really mass scale...”

The SACP certainly calls for the “rolling back” of the capitalist market - specifically in regard to the provision of basic social rights - water, electricity, housing, food, jobs, education, culture, health-care, safety and security, and transport. The “competitive” (Lenin claimed way back in 1915 that competition was no longer a feature of capitalism), “free” play of profit-seeking capitalist corporations should not be the final determining factor as to whether, and at what price, these basic social necessities are delivered. We are sure that we share this conviction with most comrades in the ANC, and a great range of present government policies - from market regulation measures, through to delivery of many services - underlines this conviction.

But, as several non-SACP ANC colleagues have noted, the SACP, in its strategic and tactic programmes emanating from our Congresses over the last 10 years, has also increasingly acknowledged the importance of competition, especially in the context of a socialist market. This would involve competition between publicly/socially owned entities, and between a dominant public sector and the private sector.

However, there are real debates and real concerns in the present situation, notwithstanding broadly converging agreements. Without going into detail here, we should accept that different policy options involve trade-offs, and these should be analysed and debated. Exposing Telkom, for instance, to increasing competition, could well drive down the price of telephone calls, and this could be good for economic growth. But increased competition could slow down costly capital expenditure on the roll-out and maintenance of infrastructure in historically under-serviced areas. Are these concerns justified? What is the optimal balance between driving down prices, increasing national economic competitiveness, on the one hand, and the roll-out and maintenance of social infrastructure?

Again, this is the kind of “sober, practical” discussion and ongoing evaluation that we should undertake.

Globalisation - a subjective or objective reality?

Cde Mokaba implies that the SACP believes globalisation is “a subjective invention of a neo-liberal cabal located in Washington”. On the contrary, we AGREE with him that “globalisation” (or, as we would prefer to call it, the present intensified and qualitatively new phase of imperialism) is, fundamentally, an objective process. But it is in the analytic characterisation of what is objective about this process that we might have differences.

We probably all agree that one substantial part of this objective process is the rapid development of the forces of production, and their extensive (if uneven) deployment across the globe. Rapid advances in information and communications technologies (ICT) and bio-technology over the last two and a half decades are among the most obvious examples. This is the progressive, modernising, revolutionary face of capitalism analysed and celebrated by Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.

But it is not just the technical, progressive, advancing-of-the-forces-of-production side of capitalism that is an objective reality. Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc. all drew attention to the simultaneously oppressive, exploitative, crisis-ridden side of capitalism - progress and barbarism, wealth-creation and immiseration, combined and uneven development, development and under-development, the boom-time production of huge wealth, and the down-turn destruction of vast productive capacity, including chronic unemployment. Under capitalism each is the objective condition of the other. It is this thoroughly dialectical understanding of capitalism that is the hall-mark of scientific socialism.

Our concern in the SACP is that, quite often, it is only the positive features of “globalisation” that are held to be “objective”, while the negative features tend to be portrayed as subjective. The marginalisation of our continent, or the failure to invest in our economy are all too easily given subjective explanations - market prejudices or failures (as if there had merely been some oversight), Afro-pessimism, etc. I should immediately emphasise that market prejudices, Afro-pessimism, etc. are indeed realities, and the struggle against them is an important struggle. But the marginalisation of our continent is not fundamentally the consequence of a sentiment (pessimism), just as apartheid was never explicable as, fundamentally, merely a prejudice of the white minority.

In regard to the current phase of “globalisation”, the SACP (in concert with a great many international left and progressive analysts) believes that it has its origins in the first half of the 1970s, and in a deepening crisis of profitability in the most advanced centres of capital accumulation in North America and Western Europe. A key symptom of this crisis of accumulation was the build up of financial capital in Western private banks, capital that was not being invested productively in the North.

A temporary and partial resolution of the problem was the swathe of loans to the developing world in the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s. These loans are now portrayed superficially as “unwise” borrowing by “third world” elites (which they may have been), but they had their logic in the objective development of a global capitalist crisis of declining profitability and the accumulation of uninvested financial capital in the North. Loans to the South (and increasingly to Eastern Europe), however, quickly provoked an unsustainable debt problem, and only served to deepen the structural crisis in the world capitalist system. In the course of the 1980s, the World Bank and IMF were dusted off, and given a new mission - take over the management of the debt from the private Western banks, and enforce debt payment through structural adjustment programmes (SAPs). SAPs are, themselves, not just attempts to manage the debt crisis, but also serve through liberalisation and privatisation measures to open up new corners of the world economy to profit-seeking investment from the North.

Within the heart-lands of capitalist accumulation, the response to the crisis of declining profitability, involved, inter alia, the destruction of ageing forces of production (the “de-industrialisation” of key manufacturing centres in the north), and the related assault on organised labour (including mass lay-offs), attempts to roll-back the welfare state and progressive, redistributive tax regimes, the rolling back of environmental protection measures, and,... yes, the introduction and development of innovative new technologies (notably in the ICT field). This latter feature is extremely important, but it is only ONE of several objective features of “globalisation”.

The importance of understanding the objective and dialectical character of capitalist development evokes a long history of debate within the socialist movement. In the 19th century, a one-sided and largely moral critique of capitalism, resulted in all manner of utopian and anarchistic brands of socialism, whose hall-mark was an impossible dream of opting out, or of going backwards. Various brands of “African socialism” in the 20th century have had similar features. Anti-globalisation, anarchist groups in the last few years also have a similar lineage. At the other extreme, however, were evolutionist approaches to capitalism, approaches that over-emphasised the progressive, modernising side of capitalism, and which failed to appreciate the thoroughly contradictory nature of capitalist development. This latter current informed West European social democracy, and among its obvious characteristics (certainly in the first two-thirds of the 20th century) has been a near total blindness to third world marginalisation, and an insensitivity to the link between the socialist struggle and the national liberation struggle in the colonial and semi-colonial world.

If both the progressive and negative sides of “globalisation” are objective and thoroughly interlinked realities, what does a progressive strategy look like in a country like South Africa at the beginning of this new century? We don’t pretend to have easy answers, but an analysis along these lines suggests that a progressive strategy has to combine an engagement with, and, at the same time, a partial de-linking from the logic of “globalisation”. Simple alignment will reproduce the deepening objective marginalisation of our country, region and continent, coupled with deepening intra-national inequality. Simple “opting out” is a no-hoper - it would reduce our society to a North Korean or Taliban-style calamity.

I appreciate that these are still very general strategic gestures, but hopefully it gives some indication of how the SACP believes “globalisation” needs to be approached analytically, and this kind of analysis should then inform, we believe, the development of strategic programmatic policies. Again, we believe that much of our international, trade and economic policy-making is informed by this kind of dialectical appreciation of contemporary realities. However, as cde Mokaba’s intervention illustrates, this dialectical approach to current global realities is not always in evidence.

When the SACP critiques the influence of neo-liberalism, who is being “indicted”?

Cde Mokaba asserts categorically that the SACP says “the ANC has adopted a neo-liberal agenda.” I do not think that we have ever said this. If we have, we would be wrong. Certainly in the relatively extensive quotes from SACP documents, provided by cde Mokaba, you will find no such claim.

Cde Mokaba notes that when this question (“is the Party indicting the ANC of neo-liberalism?”) was put to us at the last bilateral, the Party delegation used the well-known Marxist aphorism - “the ruling ideas of an epoch are the ideas of the ruling class”. It is our belief (and deep concern) that neo-liberalism, being the ideology of the globally ruling class, is the hegemonic ideology of our time, and that it has a major impact on our own South African reality.

Cde Mokaba writes: “Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for the SACP to explain who the ruling class in South Africa is. Clearly if it is the bourgeoisie, this must mean that its ideas, namely neo-liberalism, are dominant. In this case, even against its will, according to this thesis, as the ruling party, the ANC would then be obliged to implement the ideas of this dominant class”.

Clearly we (not just the SACP, but all of us in the alliance, collectively) do need to discuss, develop and refine our understanding of the concept “ruling class”, especially as it might apply to South Africa in the present conjuncture. I hope this is what cde Mokaba is suggesting, and that he is not being merely polemical and sarcastic. South Africa is, manifestly, a capitalist society, and, therefore, strictly from a classical Marxist, mode of production analysis, we would have to say the capitalist class is the ruling class in our society. However, political power is hegemonised by a radical democratic liberation movement, with a working class and poor mass base, with an overwhelming electoral mandate, and with a wide range of progressive policies that are being actively implemented as we write.

This creates a complex situation, in which there is a high level of contestation for hegemony, including for ideological hegemony. We have all been grappling to produce an adequate theorisation of this situation. For instance, in our ANC document “Tasks of the NDR and the Mobilisation of the Motive Forces”, produced for the ANC National General Council of July 2000, these are some of the things we have said:

“It [the democratic state] must champion the cause of these masses in such a way that the basic aspirations of this majority, for human dignity and a better life, assume the status of a hegemony which informs and guides the policies and practice of all institutions of government. However, the democratic state also has a responsibility to attend to the concerns of the rest of the population who are not part of the majority...Inevitably, the democratic state will, in its composition, functioning and objectives, be characterised in part by the interaction of the contradictions contained in both national and class questions. The democratic state therefore represents neither the dictatorship of the proletariat, nor the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” (Umrabulo, no.8, 2nd quarter, 2000, p.5)

Later, in the same document, we speak of the need to work both with and against the logic of capitalism, “the democratic forces must...establish a dialectical relationship with private capital...” (p.7)

If these ANC discussion document characterisations are fundamentally correct (and I think they are) then, clearly, some of the more reductionist analyses of the state to be found in the classic Marxist texts (eg. “the state is the executive committee of the bourgeoisie”) need to be revisited. But it is in the spirit of this kind of reductionism that cde Mokaba seemingly wants to proceed - the SACP must state who is the ruling class in South Africa. If we say it is the bourgeosie, then we must equally be saying that, “even against its will”, the ANC ruling party is “obliged” to implement the ideology of this ruling class. This kind of logic may well apply to a view that sees the state as no more than “the conveyor belt” of the economic infrastructure, or which believes that the state can only be either “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, or the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”. For better or worse, this is manifestly not the case in our situation.

Our situation is complex, and, to return to the central issue here: who is the SACP indicting of neo-liberalism? Does the SACP imagine that somewhere there is an ANC collective, perhaps in cabinet, or perhaps in the National Working Committee, that sits down and quietly plots a neo-liberal programme, which it then seeks to impose by stealth upon an unsuspecting country? Absolutely, no! Does the SACP believe that neo-liberalism exerts an influence on our movement (including on the SACP and its cadres), an influence about which we need to be vigilant? Absolutely, yes! As a globally hegemonic and as a nationally contested but (at the least) very influential ideology, neo-liberalism, its assumptions, paradigms, concepts and programmes, is pervasive.

Let us give a practical example. As comrades know, we have been running a campaign for the transformation of the banking and financial sector. The campaign is linked to the SACP’s conviction that a key component of a growth and development strategy is the more effective mobilisation of domestic capital resources. We have been joined by over 50 organisations in this campaign, including the ANC. A key demand of the campaign is the call for community reinvestment legislation. This would oblige banks to report on their developmental investments, enabling government and popular forces to assess the performance of different banks in terms of this criterion. In deciding where to bank, government departments, popular organisations and ordinary citizens could then exercise market choice with a developmental flavour (you see, we DO believe in competition!). Already government, in the face of opposition from banks, has introduced an aspect of such legislation, in the shape of the Mortgage Loans Act.

The campaign has also been calling for, and has now succeeded in winning, a NEDLAC Financial Sector Summit. The strategy is to bring the united weight of government, the community sector and the trade unions to bear on the private banks, with a view to pushing forward transformation. The Banking Council, for its part, has sought to resist transformation, and to deflect growing pressure and criticism. Essentially, the Banking Council is conceding that the poor are inadequately covered by the existing financial sector, and that co-operative banking and other measures can be looked at. However, they argue, none of these are the responsibility or concern of the major private banks. “We”, they argue, “are world-class, first world banks, and you do not want tamper with us.”

In preparation for the NEDLAC Summit, the community, trade unions, the Banking Council and government have now all submitted position papers. While the Banking Council repeats its general line, it does make some concessions. But by far the most conservative input is the government paper, which argues against any tampering with the existing “First World” private financial sector. The Banking Council is delighted.

As the SACP we have discretely checked to see what lies behind this “government” position. It is, as we had assumed, the work of a senior Treasury Department official, who has simply lifted his ideas out of the neo-liberal American text-books he has been studying. We are not trying to launch a witch-hunt against an individual, and we trust that, although the “government” paper in question has already been tabled at NEDLAC, it is not too late to rescue matters.

In our experience this kind of thing is happening all the time. A large number of the consultants government calls in, the academic courses to which we send colleagues for upgrading, the news-rooms and think-tanks - all of this ideological apparatus is thoroughly imbued with the hegemonic ideas of our time. It would be surprising if it were not, and it would be surprising if these ideas did not impact on our own thinking. In our concerns about neo-liberalism, the SACP is trying to say nothing more and nothing less than this. We are not “indicting” the ANC or government of neo-liberalism. Which brings me to the final issue that I would like to take up here:

What kind of debate are we trying to have?

Cde Mokaba’s intervention could lead us off in one of two basic directions - a sober debate, or a fundamentalist exchange over the meaning of texts coupled with prosecutorial language directed at each other. If we allowed ourselves to be merely irritated by cde Mokaba’s intervention, we could easily respond with a counter charge-sheet. We could have a non-debate in which we seek to find each other guilty of betrayal, or sell-out, or ultra-left conspiracy. For every quotation from Lenin attacking “ultra-leftism”, we could flourish another hundred from Lenin attacking “right-wing opportunism”, “Kautskyism”, Menshevism, “vulgar materialism” and the “legal Marxists”. But is this what we want? Are we trying to smoke out what cde Mokaba refers to as the “witches of the ultra-left tendency” lodged “in the woodwork of the Tripartite Alliance”? Or are we trying to have a “sober and practical”, scientific discussion about the huge gains we have collectively notched up in our country since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, and the equally huge challenges still facing us?

It is surely obvious what choice we should make.


People of a Special Mould - four SACP leaders in Exile

By Vladimir Shubin, Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

This paper is devoted to the political views and practical activities of the persons who led South African Communist Party (SACP) at the most difficult period of its existence, its general secretaries Moses Kotane (Malume), Moses Mabhida (Baba), Joe Slovo (J S), and Tembsile Hani (Chris). It is based both on archival materials collected in the South African and Russian archives and personal discussions with SACP leaders and activists. Naturally, special attention is paid in the paper to their relations with Moscow.


Moses Kotane was re-elected to the highest position of general secretary when the SACP was re-established in 1953 following the dissolution of its predecessor, the Communist Party of South Africa. Many years later, describing the difficulties, he and his comrades faced in that period, Kotane commented: ‘It is very easy to say yes [to the question of whether the underground apparatus could have been prepared] ... theoretically you can prepare people to be flyers where there are no airplanes.’ 1

Kotane’s words became relevant again, this time for the ANC, after the Congress had been banned in April 1960. Nevertheless, as soon as the government announced the banning of the ANC, an Emergency Committee was formed. It declared that the ANC would continue to provide leadership and organisation for the people under its own name. Kotane who himself managed to evade arrest, chaired that committee, while simultaneously heading the communist underground organisation. His appointment to chair an interim body of the ANC was clear evidence not only of his personal influence but also of the important contribution made by communists in the ANC.

Moses Kotane left South Africa in the [European] fall of 1961 illegally and was back in the USSR after a quarter of a century. Those who met Kotane at that time remember him as a very colourful, impressive and powerful person, who took the lead in the Moscow discussions. The very fact that he was a communist in the ‘Comintern mould’ also contributed towards the re-establishment of full-scale relations between the SACP and CPSU. It was lucky that he returned to the USSR after the criticism of Stalin’s ‘cult of personality’, when old assessments of people underwent a critical review. Certain references, ‘inherited’ by the CPSU International Department from the Comintern, associating Kotane with the ‘Roux-Gomas factionalist group’, may otherwise have influenced his Soviet associates.

A distinct feature of Kotane was his independence, as his new Moscow friends were soon to discover. Shortly after his arrival he asked to be taken from his ‘special flat’ into the centre of Moscow, where he then promptly disappeared. Imagine, the general secretary of an illegal party getting lost in Red Square! Fortunately the alarm was called off in a matter of hours: Kotane rediscovered some parts of Moscow, took a few rides on the metro and by trolley-bus, and then successfully found his way back to his ‘hideout’ 2.

The South African delegation, composed of Kotane and Yusuf Dadoo, the Party Chairman, was invited to attend the 22nd CPSU Congress and when Boris Ponomarev, its International Secretary received the South African delegation on November 18, 3 many issues were discussed, including the use of various forms of struggle.

The approach of the Soviet side was summarised in Ponomarev’s words: ‘You know better’. Ponomarev requested and received official permission from the Central Committee to convey the following to the SACP leaders: ‘Taking into account the situation in [South Africa] we agree with the opinion expressed by comrades Kotane and Dadoo. At the same time the intention of the SACP to take a course of armed forms of struggle places on the Party great responsibility. It is necessary not to counterpose one form of struggle to the others but to combine skilfully all these forms... The winning of the masses to your side and preparation for the armed struggle are two sides of the same question. Both these tasks should be accomplished in close interconnection’ 4.

The documents of the CPSU archives confirm, therefore, that Moscow neither instigated nor agitated for the armed struggle in South Africa but, rather, respected the decision taken by the South Africans themselves and agreed to render assistance, while warning against over-emphasis on armed forms of struggle.

Moses Kotane came to Moscow again in April 1963, when he accompanied Oliver Tambo on his first visit to the USSR which resulted in the establishment of regular relations between Moscow and the ANC. It was Kotane who, as ANC Treasurer-General, forwarded many requests to the Soviet Union. The fact that they came from the SACP general secretary without doubt gave them added importance in the eyes of the Soviets.

Specialised training in guerrilla warfare was organised in the USSR not only for Umkhonto we Sizwe fighters, but also for the higher levels of the ANC and SACP leadership including Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, Joe Slovo, and Joe Modise in 1964.

From 1963 Kotane lived in Dar es Salaam and then in Morogoro when the ANC had to withdraw its Head Quarters to Morogoro. ‘We shall never forget,’ said Oliver Tambo later, ‘that during the three-year period ending in December 1968, two political giants of the South African struggle - J B Marks [SACP Chairman] and Moses Kotane, comrades in arms for over 40 years - operated from a small room in Morogoro, sharing a small office and sleeping in two small adjacent rooms, which now deserve preservation as a national monument.’ 5

In particular, in 1967-1968 Kotane was responsible for logistical supplies for Umkhonto fighters who fought in Zimbabwe. He also took an active part in early preparations for what became later known as ‘Operation J’, an abortive attempt to land a group of Umkhonto we Sizwe fighters on the Transkeian coast. To his credit he appreciated the difficulties connected with it. ‘We know nothing about the sea,’ he said once, when this project was discussed in Moscow earlier 6.

In the early 1960s Kotane and his comrades were greatly concerned about the growing split between the USSR and China. It was a shattering blow to Kotane. One of his Russians interlocutors recalls that having listened to the Soviet arguments against the policy of Beijing, Kotane exclaimed: ‘Man, may be the old man was wrong?’ ‘What old man, Moses?’ ‘Marx’, he replied 7. The SACP leadership was in no hurry to take sides, hoping for a rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing. It also understood and supported Oliver Tambo in his efforts to keep the ANC uncommitted. It was only in 1964 that criticism of Beijing’s policy finally appeared in the pages of SACP publications.

Kotane played a prominent, albeit controversial role in the reorganisation of the SACP in exile. By the mid 1960s SACP structures inside the country had been destroyed. Nine of the seventeen Central Committee members were safe outside South Africa and at one of the CC meetings it was decided to set up Party organisations in countries where Party members happened to be, but the process proved to be very slow.

The main reason, apart from practical difficulties, was a certain hesitation, expressed in particular by Moses Kotane. Fortunately the SACP (and here it differed from a good number of Communist parties in other countries) did not have ‘a cult of personality’. The damage brought about by the factional struggles in the Party in the early and mid 1930s, perhaps immunised the Party against splits and leader-worship. But Moses Kotane, the general secretary from 1939, was held in very high regard, both as a man of integrity and as a person who, in Joe Slovo’s words, had ‘a wide and intimate contact with the people, a very profound almost peasant-like understanding (in the good sense of the term) of the needs, of the moods, the psychology and the real stuff of which his people were made’ 8.

The position taken by Kotane on the issue of the SACP reorganisation was of crucial importance. Chris Hani said in 1974: ‘After coming out of prison [in Botswana] I made a serious attempt to organise party life. I saw Moses was keen on preserving the cohesion of the national liberation movement. He realised there were enemies and he felt the Party should never give them the excuse to destroy the good working relations between the two organisations [the ANC and the SACP]. Because of his credentials he felt that he himself was representing the Party in the ANC and that therefore there was no need for the Party itself. In a way he succeeded, he achieved the respect of OR [Oliver Tambo] and indirectly OR’s recognition of the Party is mirrored in Moses. But Moses went too far’ 9.

Joe Slovo was of the opinion that Kotane maintained the tactical approach to the relationship between the Party and the ANC, resisting the public emergence of the SACP inside South Africa. According to Joe Slovo, Kotane was motivated by ‘the sort of desire not to embarrass the ANC under very difficult conditions, it is true, but at the same time this overriding desire to maintain the cohesion and unity of the national movement, his conduct in furtherance of that approach, furtherance of that tactic objectively speaking presented at that period actually a very big danger to the historical survival of the Party’. In Slovo’s view Kotane’s opposition to ‘the creation of organised party units in the difficult conditions of Africa ... created a danger of the disappearance of the Party as an organised political entity altogether’ 10.

It is therefore hardly accidental that the practical steps to create SACP organisations in African countries were taken only after Kotane, bed-ridden in the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, found his participation in everyday party activity severely limited. He had suffered a severe stroke and had been brought to Moscow for treatment in 1969.

In the first months of his illness his hopes of recovery were shared by the Soviet doctors and initially both SACP and ANC leaders tried to discuss all major issues with him. For example, Yusuf Dadoo asked to see Kotane in hospital in Moscow in April 1969 before travelling from London to Tanzania to participate in the ANC Consultative Conference at Morogoro 11. After some improvement he was taken from the hospital to the Barvikha sanatorium near Moscow. (There I met Kotane for the first time when I accompanied Alfred Nzo, ANC Secretary General.) Later he was transferred to Sochi, the Black Sea resort, as the last stage of his treatment before returning to Africa. But there his condition worsened again and his stay in the USSR had to be prolonged 12. Severe pain and lack of mobility persisted and he had to return to the Moscow hospital.

Although his comrades always called on him during their visits to Moscow for CC meetings or on other occasions Kotane felt himself more and more isolated. ‘Cut away from everything for more than a year now, with nobody interested in informing me’, he complained in a letter to Dadoo, inquiring incidentally about the plans to commemorate Lenin’s centenary in April 1970 13.

Kotane remained in the hospital for many more years until his death in 1978 and, albeit hardly active, he became a symbol of SACP and ANC ties with Moscow. For example, when in December 1976 a considerable quantity of arms requested by the ANC arrived in Maputo from the USSR, in the ANC language of the time it came ‘from Malume’s place’.


The attitude of the ANC (and SACP) members to Moses Mabhida is characterised by the name they often called him - Baba (Father).

Mabhida was well known in South Africa as a trade union organiser vice-president of South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). However, in 1964 he was recalled by the ANC leadership from his position at the World Federation of Trade Unions Headquarters in Prague and became commissar of the first big group of fighters trained in Odessa.

Later he served the ANC in various positions, including secretary of its Revolutionary Council. In particular he was instrumental in forging the ANC relations with independent Angola and as a special envoy he was sent to Luanda in January 1976. However his main ‘base’ in the late 1970s and early 1980s was Maputo and, for lengthy periods of time, neighbouring Swaziland.

Moses Mabhida was elected the SACP general secretary at its Central Committee meeting in the GDR in late 1979, but the Party continued working in conditions of great secrecy and his election was not announced for more than a year 14.

Speaking in London at the 60th anniversary of the SACP on 30 June 1981, Oliver Tambo used the election of Mabhida to describe the character of the relationship between the ANC and the Party: ‘It is often claimed by our detractors that the ANC’s association with the SACP means that the ANC is being influenced by the SACP. That is not our experience. Our experience is that the two influence each other. The ANC is quite capable of influencing, and is liable to be influenced by others. There has been the evolution of strategy which reflects this two-way process. In fact the ANC was quite within its rights to tell the SACP that we are sorry we cannot release Comrade Moses Mabhida from his tasks in the ANC - find another comrade to be general secretary. Yet we agreed he would be a good general secretary for the SACP. He was not grabbed ‘ 15.

Moses Mabhida’s relations with Moscow were close. When he felt a need for a profound study of the international situation the experience of the liberation and other left-wing movements he requested a short course in International Lenin School. Entering its premises he told me: ‘ I am leaving all my posts behind. I’m just a student here’.

As other leaders of the South African liberation movement, Mabhida was disappointed with Mozambique’s ‘rapprochement’ with Pretoria in 1984. At that time Frelimo had direct relations with the SACP. But, despite this, the Mozambicans refused even to discuss the Nkomati Accord with the SACP leadership. Mabhida’s apartment was one of those searched by the Mozambican security and on 5 May 1984 he was required to leave Maputo for Lusaka, which for the rest of the decade became the SACP headquarters. Before his departure, in spite of the difficulties, Mabhida managed to visit Lesotho to meet Party activists there.

Moses Mabhida was re-elected to his top position at the SACP 6th Congress in Moscow in 1984. It should be emphasised that, he was far from a ‘figure-head’ of the Party. Some academics, though they profess non-racism, cannot rid themselves of the notion that only whites can lead political organisations. ‘Take the case of the late Moses Mabhida: he may have been the official secretary general [read: general secretary] of the party, but when pressed for a decision he used to say that he had first to refer the matter to Bunting or Slovo’ 16 writes R. W. Johnson. He does not disclose his source, but it is certainly unreliable. Moses Mabhida was not a man to be ‘pushed ... into a symbolic front seat’ 17; a proud Zulu, he had enough self-confidence to take all decisions relating to his position as leader of the SACP.

For several years Mabhida had not been well. Suffering from diabetes, he was able to control his disease through strict discipline: diet, medicine and no alcohol. The Soviet doctors were helpful. He was supposed to come back to them immediately after the SACP Congress, however he decided to visit Sandinist Nicaragua and Cuba; and promised to return on the first flight from Havana in January 1995. But he had a stroke while he was in Havana and had to stay in Cuba for an extended period. The Cuban health system was perfect. Still, Mabhida was eager to return to the Soviet Union. The Soviets were, of course, ready to receive him for treatment, but requested confirmation that he could safely make the journey.

He finally arrived six months later, accompanied by a Cuban doctor, who informed me at the airport that his health had recovered ‘by 85%’. Mabhida spent some weeks more in the Moscow hospital and then left for a sanatorium in the Soviet south on the Black Sea coast. Back in Moscow, Mabhida had a final medical examination and the doctors pronounced him fit for work. But he never fully recovered and nothing could prevent the fatal heart attack on 8 March 1986 in Maputo.

The very fact that he could return there and that the Frelimo government provided him with a house and other facilities, demonstrated its disappointment with the ‘Nkomati Accord’ signed with Pretoria. But a real breakthrough in ANC-Mozambican relations occurred during Mabhida’s funeral. President Samora Machel insisted that the funeral should take place in Maputo.

Speaking at the funeral ceremony Joe Slovo said: ‘The racists hate South African communists with a special venom. To discredit what we stand for they spread the myth that communists are a strange people from far away countries who import ideas from Europe which are dangerous for Africa. The answer to all these outpourings lies before us in this coffin’ 18. Samora Machel in his turn underlined: ‘He [Mabhida] was denied his soil in his life and it is denied to him after death. But he will not be buried in a foreign land. Mozambique is his country too’ 19.

Indeed the ceremony which was followed by the traditional hand-washing represented a symbolic reconciliation between Frelimo and the ANC: the participants carried both Oliver Tambo and Samora Machel on their shoulders.


I met Joe Slovo for the first time in 1973 at an informal party, organised after an SACP Central Committee meeting in Moscow, although of course I had heard a lot about him earlier.

From the early 1960s Slovo combined his SACP duties (he was elected a CC member in 1954). ‘To constitute the High Command’, he wrote, ‘the ANC appointed Mandela and the Party appointed me. We were instructed by both bodies to make recommendations about the balance of members of the High Command, which we did and it was endorsed. We were then given the mandate to proceed to create MK structures in all the main regions ‘20.

His active participation in Umkhonto affairs continued in exile. However, like other non-African members of the movement up to 1969 he could not be an official member of the ANC, and naturally he was one of the proponents of ‘opening up’ the ranks of the Congress.

Thus, on the eve of the ANC Consultative Conference in Morogoro in 1969, Joe Slovo urged the ‘integration of non-African revolutionaries both inside and outside the country into full ANC membership’.21. The decision taken in Morogoro was a compromise: non-Africans could become members, but only in exile structures and could not be elected into the highest body, the National Executive Committee. Joe Slovo became a member of the Revolutionary Council. 16 years later, the next ANC Consultative Conference decided to open membership of the ANC to South Africans of any race without reservations, and Slovo was elected to its NEC.

Slovo was involved in many attempts to return ANC (and SACP) cadres back home. Summing up these efforts he wrote: ‘This went on, until 1976 I would say, with one project or another, with none of them really succeeding. But our failures, although one does not plan for them, hsd some kind of impact... People were becoming aware that here was a committed and dedicated group which was just going to continue knocking their heads against the wall until somehow there was a crack in it. I think that was a very important side-product of the efforts most of which ended in failure. But one wonders where we would have been without these stubborn attempts to find the answer’ 22.

One of these attempts (and these failures) was a so called ‘Operation J’. In the late 1960s, as large-scale infiltration of trained fighters into South Africa proved unsuccessful overland, the ANC leadership concentrated its attention on finding a sea route. After persistent requests from the ANC and SACP leadership, the Soviet side, originally sceptical, agreed to support the plan 23 but warned against any unprepared and hasty actions.

Not surprisingly, therefore the news of the failure of the operation was greeted in Moscow with disappointment. In spite of many years of planning and preparation (not to mention the high cost), the operation was a flop from the outset. All this provoked critical remarks, directed sometimes at Slovo in particular. Since ‘slovo’ means ‘word’ in Russian, a sad joke did the rounds: ‘Slov mnogo, no gde zhe delo?:’ (‘There are many words, but where is the deed?’).

However after the Soweto uprising the ANC and Umkhonto were rejuvenated thanks to the ‘exodus’ of South African youth into exile. Slovo was appointed Deputy Head of Umkhonto Headquarters, left London for Luanda and then moved in 1977 to Maputo, with particular responsibility for operations in the Eastern Transvaal, Northern Natal and Central ‘urban’ Transvaal. Later a new structure dealing with ‘special operations’ was created under Slovo’s command. One of its spectacular ‘exploit’ was an explosion in Church Street in Pretoria, at the entrance to the South African Air Force Headquarters and opposite the building which housed Military Intelligence, on 20 May 1983.

The Johannesburg Sunday Times reacted to the explosion under the heading: “‘Colonel’ Slovo lies low in London. He prefers London, it seems, to Moscow ... his every move is monitored by the South African agents and informers”. It quoted Louis le Grange, Minister of Police, who dubbed Slovo the ‘country’s enemy no. 1’ 24. But those agents were tracking the wrong man: when the explosion took place Slovo was in Moscow attending an extended meeting of the SACP Politbureau.

At the SACP 6th congress in 1984 Slovo was elected SACP Chairperson, the second highest post vacant for a year after Yusuf Dadoo’s death. After the elections, the top leadership of the Party, including Mabhida and Slovo, visited Tambo who was scarcely twenty kilometres away in the Barvikha and informed him of the decisions of congress.

That night I heard from Slovo that Tambo was not happy about his election. Perhaps the main reason was his concern for Umkhonto: it was clear that sooner or later Slovo would have to give up his post as its Chief of Staff, which he occupied from early 1983. However Tambo invited Slovo to visit him again the next day, and they had a very warm and fruitful meeting. ‘You are stepping in the shoes of great men - [John] Marks and Dadoo,’ the ANC President told him. It was decided not to announce the fact of Slovo’s election for some time. It was only in February 1986 that Slovo was named openly as the National Chairman of the Party.

When in May 1985 the USSR celebrated the 40th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, Slovo was invited to the occasion. Apart from the official ceremonies, the spirit of the celebrations captivated him. Slovo was warmly received by the workers and engineers of the famous ‘Krasny Proletariy’ (Red Proletarian) Machine Building Plant in Moscow, especially when the chairman mentioned his participation in World War Two.

During his 1985 visit, in an informal atmosphere on a campus outside Moscow where ANC cadres were trained Slovo said: ‘You took us seriously all these years, even when almost nothing remained’ 25. This phrase reminded me of another, which I heard from Oliver Tambo many years earlier, before the Soweto uprising: ‘The Soviet Union was helping the ANC permanently, as if the situation was always favourable’ 26.

The post of Chairman was the second in the SACP hierarchy, however, since Mabhida had a stroke soon after the Congress, from the beginning of 1985 Slovo was practically at its helm. Traditionally the SACP general secretaries were Africans, but at a meeting of the SACP Central Committee in Bulgaria in November-December 1986 Slovo was elected to this post.

When the time came for ‘talks about talks’ on the political settlement in South Africa, Joe Slovo elaborated on the possibility of a compromise, provided it was in the interest of the revolutionary advance: ‘We don’t say there will be no moment for us to make a compromise but we cannot support now the scheme which would mean perpetuation of their minority rule, like the veto for minorities’ 27. On the other hand he wrote in November 1987: “There are certain regional conflicts (and our own struggle is one of them) where the prospect of political settlements or real negotiation does not yet depend on diplomatic manoeuvre but rather on the building up of the strength of the liberation forces and escalating blows against the apartheid regime ... This does not mean that those who run the apartheid state will never be forced to seat themselves around a genuine negotiation table’ 28.

The prospects of political settlement were an important subject for discussion in Moscow with the delegation of the SACP in April 1988 headed by Joe Slovo. He was quite realistic about the prospects for national and social liberation in South Africa and the role of the SACP: ‘There is a drive towards socialism among the workers but in a simplified form. The Communist Party has not yet won the soul of the workers. The SACP is for political settlement. The experience of the national liberation movements in other countries proves its feasibility. Besides, the regional confrontation threatens world peace. The question is not ‘to talk or not to talk?’ but ‘with whom to talk and about what?” 29

It should be underlined that Joe Slovo’s duties in the SACP didn’t prevent him from active participation in ‘Operation Vula’ aimed at the creation of a reliable ANC underground machinery inside South Africa. When Mac Maharaj and Siphiwe Nyanda were leaving Moscow for home in July 1988, Slovo came to Moscow specifically to brief them before their trip. As for the claim that the USSR had ‘dropped’ the ANC, suffice it to say that in July 1989 Moscow was apparently the safest place for the ANC leaders, Oliver Tambo and Joe Slovo, to meet the head of their underground machinery, Mac Maharaj.

Stephen Ellis and ‘Tsepo Sechaba’ write in their Comrades against Apartheid: ‘South African government propaganda alleged that Slovo was a colonel of the Soviet KGB, but that seems rather unlikely in view of Slovo’s South African nationality’ 30. The fact is that for several decades the South African authorities refused Lithuanian-born Slovo a South African passport and he was officially regarded as an ‘alien’ even when he was already engaged in the vital talks on a political settlement.

After Slovo’s death Dennis Herbstein in the Cape Times described how the South African police ‘department of dirty tricks’ made Slovo a colonel in the early 1980s: ‘Make him a captain in the KGB, suggested one. Good idea, said Williamson, but why just a captain? The bigger the lie the more readily people will swallow it. The KGB colonel was born ‘ 31.

However, even later there was some uncertainty about Slovo’s supposed rank. The Cape Argus alleged in 1984 that he was ‘a KGB General’ 32. Roelof (Pik) Botha, then South African Foreign Minister, being his usual contrary self, ‘demoted’ Slovo: ‘The power behind ANC is the Communist Party and the power behind the Communist Party is Joe Slovo, a major in the KGB’, he declared at a pre-election meeting in 1987 33.

Other accusations against Slovo have been more serious. For anybody who had a chance to meet and talk with ‘Comrade J S’, the insistence of Ellis and ‘Sechaba’ that he is ‘a fundamental believer in classical Marxism-Leninism of the Soviet school’ 34 is something of a joke. Slovo’s sober approach to ‘real socialism’ was evident long before ‘perestroika’ even began. ‘In South Africa we are not going to nationalise every street vendor’, he told me during one of our (very) informal discussions in a small bar in the famous Oktyabrskaya (October) Hotel. Moreover, his relationship with the Soviet establishment was not exactly a cosy one. For example, his criticism of the ‘socialist orientation’ concept irritated some influential people in Moscow.

Later, when interviewed by the Western (and South African) press, Slovo explained that ‘because he had been an official visitor’ in the USSR he ‘had not met the people’ 35 and had not seen their living conditions. By and large this is true, but the fault lay mainly with him. Slovo was always an extremely busy man, and could rarely stay in the USSR for even an extra day ‘to meet the people’ and ‘to see the conditions’.

The paradox is, however, that those who knew Soviet life better, who were ‘meeting the people’ every day and so were in a position to assess the pros and cons (for example, South African academic, political and military students), as a rule returned from the USSR with warm feelings and often as convinced socialists. The majority apparently compared the reality not with, say, white suburbs of Johannesburg, but with black townships and squatter camps.

However Slovo’s criticism did not develop into a rejection of the socialist idea. Slovo admired Gorbachev’s democratisation moves, but he condemned his desertion and betrayal in 1991 and criticised Gorbachev for issuing ‘a Stalinist decree’ to dissolve the CPSU ‘as if it were his personal property ‘ 36.

Slovo heard about the unbanning of the ANC and SACP on 2 February 1990 in Moscow, or, to be exact, at the Sheremetyevo airport. There is a lot of speculation that this move by De Klerk was ‘a surprise to the exiled leaders of both organisations’ 37. However on the eve of that day I had a long discussion with Joe Slovo and he was confident that both the ANC and SACP would be unbanned.

The last time Slovo came to Moscow was in April 1991 for a short working visit, when he met the late Vladimir Ivashko, Deputy to Gorbachev in the CPSU. By the way, they discussed not only the present situation in both countries, but also ‘the prospects of relations between the USSR and a future democratic South Africa’ 38.


I met Chris Hani for the first time neither in the USSR nor in Africa, but in Oslo. It was a very rare case when Chris was included in an ANC delegation to an international meeting, though he was not registered under his real name Martin Tembesile Hani, nor his nom-de-guerre, Chris Nkosana, but as Zenzile Msethu. The occasion was the UN-OAU International Conference of Experts in Support of Victims of Colonialism and Apartheid, held in Oslo in April 1973. ‘Hello, Comrade Manchkha,’ said a young African, approaching the Head of the CPSU African Section, the only member of the Soviet delegation he knew personally. ‘Who is that?’ I asked Manchkha later. ‘Chris Nkosana, Kotane’s assistant’, he replied.

Chris Hani, a young university graduate, came to the USSR in mid-1963. As he recalled, his father and uncle ‘were both party members in Stellenbosch and they would say they were members of Moses ‘[Kotane] party’ 39 and he joined it in 1961. In an interview soon after his election to the post of SACP general secretary in December 1991, Hani said: ‘How can the working class forget the Soviet Union? I went to Moscow when I was 21 for military training. I was accepted there and treated wonderfully’ 40.

He had a chance to use his acquired skills during hostilities in what was then Rhodesia in 1967, when ‘Umkhonto’ fighters tried ‘to build bridges, a Ho Chi Minh trail to South Africa’ 41. He was a Commissar of the group which after several encounters had to cross into independent Botswana, where all of a sudden they were ‘manacled, handcuffed and abused ... sentenced to long terms of imprisonment... and ended up in the maximum security prison in Gaborone’ 42

Replying to the criticism of this operation, Chris Hani said later: ‘We believe that it was correct for our movement to be involved in actual practical steps in making preparations for MK to get back to the theatre of action in South Africa. You never wait because no favourable conditions can come on their own without the participation of the subjective factor and the subjective factor in this case was our movement and its army, MK’ 43.

Soon after his release from prison Hani was instrumental in drafting a document which became known as ‘Chris Hani’s memorandum’. The strongly worded document expressed a lack of trust in the leadership and spoke in very dramatic terms of ‘the frightening depth reached by the rot in the ANC and disintegration of MK accompanying this rot’ 44 . It insisted on ‘a renewal and rejuvenation’ of those who were leading ‘the Revolution’ and warned against ‘the fossilisation of the leadership’ 45. The document concluded with the important demand that: ‘all these problems must be resolved by a conference between tthe ANC leadership and member[s] of MK and not just hand-picked individuals’ 46.

It is no surprise a part of the ANC leadership regarded Hani’s initiative as a violation of military discipline, even a betrayal. According to some witnesses, including Hani himself, a special tribunal was created to judge him and his co-signatories 47, although Joe Modise, the Umkhonto commander, denies it 48.  In any case after a  period of suspension Hani and his co-signatories were fully reinstated in their positions.

Moreover, just in a year time Chris Hani was elected a member of the SACP Central Committee. Then, at the Central Committee session at the end of 1972, since it became clear that there was no realistic hope of recovery for Kotane, the new post of Assistant General Secretary was created and 30 year old Hani was elected to this post.

Chris Hani secret return to South Africa in 1974 was the first successful step in creating a permanent underground structure within the country. Many years later he said: ‘I arrived at Johannesburg and found that the conditions for survival were not ideal. It was a question of safe places. Friends and relatives were very scared to accommodate me. They just stopped short of kicking me out because I was a relative’ 49. After spending four months in South Africa, he crossed to Lesotho, where he remained for almost eight years.

Chris and his comrades started ‘to turn Lesotho into a temporary base from which to carry out our activities. We would cross into the country and meet with comrades to build units. By this time we had structures in the Free State, Transkei, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Border’ 50 .

Finally in 1982 Chris had to leave Lesotho and soon was appointed the Umkhonto Commissar. We were meeting regularly in the 1980s, but one of our discussions, neither in Moscow nor in Africa, but in East Berlin in August 1986 was especially remarkable. Informally Chris and I discussed a variety of issues over drinks at a cafe on the Spree river. ‘Who will replace Mabhida as the next SACP General Secretary? Why not you?’ I asked.  ‘Speak to J S,’ came the answer.

When both Chris Hani and Thabo Mbeki came to Moscow for a short holiday in 1988 there was a chance to discuss the prospects of political settlement. ‘When will you win?’ was a question I put, very informally, to each of them. ‘Ten years more’, was Chris’s reply. ‘We shall be at home in 1990,’ said Mbeki. As different as these replies were, essentially both of them were right: the ANC leaders did return home in 1990, but after the general election of April 1994 the Interim Constitution made it mandatory for the ANC to be in government together with the National Party for at least five years. So, in the full sense of the word  the ANC became victorious only after the 1999 elections, that is, even later than Hani forecast. 

It was a pleasure to see Hani and Mbeki together in Moscow after reading speculations in the western press about splits in the ANC leadership. Some forces undoubtedly tried to drive a wedge between the two most popular figures of the younger generation of the ANC leaders, counterpointing their different work styles and life stories.

An unspoken competition between the two of them in the ANC leadership ended when Hani opted out of it when he acceded to the pressure of the SACP members in December 1991 and accepted the position of General Secretary, thus blocking for himself a road to the top positions in the South African state.

The last time Chris Hani visited Moscow in April 1992 when the SACP delegation was there in transit to Pyongyang and Beijing. Although the Communist |Party in Russia was still banned at that time,  Hani didn’t hesitate to meet representatives of the left wing and the anti-Yeltsin opposition in the Russian parliament.

 During his stay in Lesotho Chris Hani survived several attempts on his life, and he remained on Pretoria’s ‘hit list for many more years. The bitter irony is that he was assassinated on 10 April 1993 as a result of a right wing conspiracy back home, when he was no more in hiding and the talks on the political settlement were in a full swing.


Restructuring of State-Owned Enterprises in China

Report from the SACP delegation to the People’s Republic of China, August 2001

The restructuring of state-owned enterprises in the Peoples Republic of China is usually presented in the West (and in South Africa) as a massive privatisation exercise, a retreat from socialism. It is held up as “evidence” that socialism “has failed”, not just in the former Soviet Union, “but in China as well”. In the present context of debates around state enterprise restructuring in South Africa, even within our own tripartite alliance we are sometimes told that privatisation in China is “far more extensive than anything contemplated here in South Africa”.

It was against this background, and in the context of ongoing exchanges between the SACP and the Communist Party of China, that the SACP sent a delegation to the PRC, specifically to study SOE restructuring in that country. The delegation was hosted by the International Department of the Central Committee, CPC.

In Beijing the SACP delegation had the opportunity to engage in in-depth ideological discussion with CPC leadership figures, including cde Li Tieying, CPC PB member and President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; cde Dai Bingguo, Member of CPC Central Committee and Head of the CPC International Department; the Deputy Minister of Communication/Transport, cde Zhang Cunxian; the director of the China International Economic Co-operation Centre, cde Cao Baijun; cde Yang Qixian, President, Economic Restructuring Research Institute, State Council Office for Economic Restructuring; cde Li Junru, Vice President, Central Party School; and cde Ma Wenpu, deputy head, International Department, CPC CC. The SACP delegation was afforded generous time with these leading cadres, and we felt no constraints in asking awkward questions, or in raising concerns and doubts.

The SACP delegation also visited the key heavy industrial province of Liaoning, where we travelled, amongst other things, to the vast Anshan Iron and Steel Works, and spoke with senior management and Party structures within the enterprise. In Shanghai we had the opportunity of visiting a working class suburb in the new industrial centre of Pudong, where we interacted with grass-roots Party structures, to get a sense of how SOE restructuring and the general economic reforms are impacting upon the lives of working people and their families.

What are the strategic objectives of the CPC and PRC government in SOE reforms?

Wherever we went we found Party, state and management comrades to be quite categorical - SOE reforms are part and parcel of building, modernising and strengthening socialism in China. Socialism is understood as a mixed economy, in which public ownership is predominant. Besides public ownership (including state, social/collective, and co-operative ownership) there are joint public/private ventures (usually between Chinese SOEs and foreign corporations), and private ownership (both domestic and foreign). However, to repeat the point, public ownership, and in particular the SOE sector, constitutes the dominant sector.

The central theme, that SOE restructuring is about strengthening, not weakening, the public sector, did not just come through in our face-to-face engagements with Chinese colleagues, it is also emphatically underlined in the official literature, including the key programmatic resolutions of the CPC. “The Decision of the Central Committee of the CPC on Major Issues concerning the Reform and Development of State-Owned Enterprises”, from the 4th Plenary of the 15th Central Committee (September, 1999) is the most recent, extensive programmatic statement on the question. Here are some broad strategic statements from the document:

“Under the new situation in which public ownership as the main form of ownership and other forms of economic ownership are developing simultaneously, the State-owned economy, with its overall strength further enhanced, continues to play a leading role in the national economy, and has always been the main source of financial revenue, providing strong support for the country’s reform and construction.” (p.1)

“If we want to enhance China’s economic strength, defence capability and national cohesive force, we must constantly promote the development and growth of the State-owned economy. The public-ownership economy, which includes the State-owned economy, is the economic basis of China’s socialist system. It is a basic force that the state uses to lead, push and regulate economic and social development, and an important guarantee for realising the fundamental interests and common prosperity of the people.” (p.2)

“The SOEs are a pillar of China’s national economy. China must always rely on and bring into full play the important role of the SOEs to develop the productive forces of the socialist society and realise the country’s industrialisation and modernisation.” (p.2)

These are fairly typical statements of the central strategic objectives of the CPC and PRC government in the SOE reform process. They clearly reflect a refreshing confidence in a socialist, state-owned sector. Obviously, strategic statements of intent are important, but what actually happens in practice may turn out to be something quite different. We will return to this matter later, but let us first map out in a little more detail the evolution of CPC economic policy, and the place of the current SOE restructuring in that evolving programme.

Restructuring of SOEs - part and parcel of a decades-long modernisation of the Chinese socialist system1

In the first three years after 1949, a “Chinese-style” economy was adopted, a public sector was maintained alongside of diversified ownership, basically a market economy, with the SOE sector constituting about 20% of the economy. According to present CPC analysis there was considerable vitality in the economy, and by 1952 GDP had reached the highest level ever.

In 1953 China adopted the Soviet model - a planned economy with a monopoly of state ownership. This approach was implemented very rapidly, and by 1956 the entire economy was under socialist ownership - 60% of GDP was produced by SOEs, and 40% by collectives. In the industrial sector, 80% of output came from SOEs, 20% from collectives.

This approach was maintained until 1978. In that year, the socialist reforms associated with Deng Xiaoping began to be introduced, and the current reality is very much in continuity with the reform process begun in that year. The socialist economy by the late-1970s was showing little growth and there was very low productivity. At the end of 1978, the third plenary session of the 11th CC resolved on the need for reform.

However, while there has been a continuous reform process underway since 1978, there are a number of distinct phases in the reform of SOEs, with restructuring only really being the central theme from 1991. All along the Chinese have sought to learn from experience as they have proceeded. The main stages have been:

  • 1979 - 1982. “Due to many ideological obstacles, we thought that the plan and public ownership were critical for a socialist country, and we were reluctant to violate these core principles.” (cde Yang). At the beginning, the slogan of the time was to “revitalise the SOEs”. Essentially, the analysis was that central government had too strict a control over SOEs. So in this earliest phase of the reforms the main measures were:
  • decentralisation of administration, with greater responsibilities devolved to the enterprises themselves
  • the allocation of more profits back to the enterprises, and even to the workers in the enterprises, to incentivise performance.
  • this latter measure was then further changed to allow enterprises to actually retain some of their profits. Enterprises negotiated the proportion. This resulted in some distortions, including an imbalanced, unequal competition between enterprises.
  • In 1983 a new policy was adopted. Owing to a very tight national budget, national government stipulated that 55% of SOE profits had to be surrendered to national government. From the remaining profit, local government collected tax, and the rest was used by the enterprise itself. However, the 55% national share was still not enough, and government negotiated a greater share, something that made SOEs very unhappy.
  • In 1987 there was yet another adaptation. Attempting to apply the lesson of the rural areas, where a family unit contracting system had replaced the old communes, enterprises now signed contracts with government stipulating an agreed upon levy if the enterprise was profitable. If it was not profitable, government contractually assumed responsibility, particularly for the livelihood of workers. But practice showed that this approach, whatever its success in agriculture, was not applicable in an industrial setting.

By 1990 it was clear that these various attempts at spurring growth and productivity in the core SOE sector through the redistribution of profits were not really working. 20% of SOEs had been loss-making at the beginning of the 1980s, by 1990 the figure had risen to 30%.

In 1991 “we summarised the past experience, and found the major cause for loss-making in SOEs was not so much the ineffective redistribution of profits, but the irrational structuring of SOEs.” (cde Yang) Thus, restructuring became the new emphasis. Linked to this, in 1992 the concept of a “socialist market economy” was adopted. In 1993 the CC affirmed that the restructuring of SOEs was a fundamental part of the reform of the whole economy, towards a socialist market economy.

Restructuring of SOEs was now increasingly modelled on “modern enterprises” in the developed countries. In particular, emphasis was placed on:

  • Scientific management techniques, and on
  • The structure of SOEs, with a clearer delineation established between management and administration functions on the one hand, and corporate governance on the other.

However, before 1997 these new approaches still proceeded very slowly. There was considerable ideological opposition to what was seen as undue modelling on Western enterprises. The reduction of “redundant” workers, and high rates of indebtedness also proved to be complicating factors.

At the 15th CPC Congress there were further adaptations to policy, in particular the approach to ownership was changed:

  • With SMMEs, not in strategic sectors, government could withdraw its control, and there could be a variety of ownership forms;
  • With large enterprises, and those in strategic sectors, state ownership would be maintained, but the struggle to restructure these entities into “modern” enterprises would continue.

In September 1999, the 4th Plenary of the 15th CC further adjusted this policy, allowing for the state to withdraw from ownership in the case of large SOEs as well. But the government would continue to control the following four categories of SOEs:

  • Enterprises linked to national security, especially the armaments industry;
  • Natural monopolies - like the mint, and cigarettes;
  • Enterprises involved in infrastructure - water, power, gas, railways, hospitals, schools, etc.; and
  • “Backbone” industries - steel works, coal mines, hi-tech and new-tech industries.

In many cases, in the above four categories, state ownership is 100%, but in other cases, there is a majority state ownership - eg. in China Petroleum Company, and in Baogang Steel Works, which are both listed companies, 20-30% of shares are held by private individuals.

However, as cde Yang insisted, the relinquishing of a proportion of state ownership in China is not necessarily straightforward privatisation, as in the West: “The restructuring we refer to in China is different to the Western approach, which is typically privatisation. For us in China many enterprises are now owned co-operatively or collectively. For example, in the restructuring of medium-sized enterprises, in particular, the main emphasis is on collective ownership by managers and workers, holding non-transferable shares, together.”

Yang estimates that about one-third of GDP comes from state-owned enterprises, nearly 40% of GDP comes from collectively owned enterprises, and about 30% is from foreign-owned companies, or private entrepreneurs. He believes that while the state-owned contribution may still decline, together with the collective sector, it will still be over 60% of GDP, with the private sector coming in around 30%.

The current restructuring will take to 2010 “it is not one day’s task”.

Case study - the Anshan Iron and Steel Group Corporation

To understand better some of the general history sketched out above, it might be useful to consider a specific enterprise. Anshan Iron and Steel Company -AISC - (founded in 1916 and re-launched in 1949) was one of the flag-ship industrial entities during the planned economy period. Historically, AISC made a major contribution to the socialist economy during the centrally planned period, amongst other things it was a key training base for iron and steel plants throughout China. But the staff complement was far too large, production efforts were scattered across a wide variety of sometimes unrelated sectors, and just about all of its profits in the past were returned to the state. As a result it was unable to realise an intelligent cycle of reinvestment. There was little renewal of equipment, which dated back to the 1950s and 60s. There was also a lack of diversity in its core activity - the production of iron and steel products. The AISC was unable to respond to new market needs. Despite its very significant strategic presence in the socialist economy, it was heavily indebted, and increasingly falling behind in terms of technical innovation.

Before the 9th 5-year plan, Anshan was a vast complex that included not just a whole network of factories and business operations (ranging from mining through to cement, electronics and property development), but also including schools, hospitals and kindergartens all run by the enterprise. As was typical for enterprises during the “planned” economy phase, the social life of workers and their families was organised around the point of production, with the company assuming full responsibility for these social functions.

Since 1995 major restructuring has been under-way to introduce what the management and CPC officials at the plant refer to as a “modern enterprise system”, including a clearer delineation of parent-subsidiary relations, and greater focus on the main business of the entity. AISC has also been divided into two legal entities, Angang Group New Iron and Steel Limited Liability Company, and Angang New Steel Co. Ltd. The stock of the latter is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzen stock exchanges. These two new entities, if we understand correctly, are essentially legal entities for the purposes of raising capital and managing the debt legacy, while AISC itself still remains in place. Cde Yang Bao Xing (vice president of AISC) insisted that the stock exchange listings were purely to raise capital, including government investment. For instance, to manage the debt, a number of state banks have formed an asset management company, and this holds 30 percent of the shares in the Angang New Steel Co Ltd. Comrade Yang and his delegation insisted that the company remained 100% state owned.

Restructuring has had a major impact upon employment in the enterprise. At the beginning of 1995 there was a total of 192,000 employees in the group. Over 75 000 were involved in the main iron and steel business - mining (11 mines), dressing, rolling and coiling, and associated chemical works. Another 120,000 employees were involved in auxiliary businesses - production of fire-resisting materials, cement, transport, electronics, construction, etc. Over the past 5 to 6 years the staff in the main business areas has been reduced to 43,000 (down from 75 000). In the following five years they expect to decrease the staff to 20,000 in the core business.

As for the former auxiliary companies, they have been formed into 27 separate companies that are responsible for their own profits and debts. The relationship between these companies and the rest of the group is now based purely on market principles, although there has been deliberate planning and investment in their establishment, partly to ensure that they are viable, and are able to absorb some of the redundant labour from the main iron and steel business.

Cde Yang insists that the downscaling of the work-force has always been preceded by careful planning to ensure that retrenched workers are not just thrown out into a vacuum. Of the 28,000 retrenched workers (i.e. those who would not otherwise have been lost due to normal attrition), some 15,000 have been re-employed in auxiliary plants, or in newly established enterprises. Another 5,000 of these workers are currently on the payroll undergoing training in a special Re-employment Centre run by the company. Those who cannot be placed in work directly from this Centre, can stay for three years. After that they will move into the social security system, and Liaoning Province (where Anshan is located) has been designated as a pilot province for taking a renovated social security system forward. While there is already a relatively elaborated transport, housing, schooling, and health-care social security net in the province, the PRC is more and more shifting social security provision from enterprises to society (partly to deal with the new reality of private/joint venture enterprises, and partly to get SOEs to focus more single-mindedly on production, leaving social reproduction to society ).

Sustained disinformation about the Chinese reform process

In the preceding sections we have tried to outline the main strategic objectives of the Chinese economic reforms, specifically as they relate to the restructuring of SOEs. We think that a fairly clear, socialist agenda shines through, so why is the claim so commonly and easily made that the Chinese leaders are taking their country deliberately on to “the capitalist road”? Part of the reason lies in deliberate distortions (or ignorant confusions) that are very familiar within our own context.

  • The market does not equal capitalism - Much of the disinformation about the Chinese reform process in general is based on the simple conflation of the “market” with “capitalism”. Since the Chinese are openly advocating market relations, they are clearly, so the argument goes, adopting capitalism. But as our own SACP strategy and tactics documents have long noted, markets pre-existed the historical development of capitalism, and markets can (and should) exist under socialism. A central component of the post-1978, Deng reform process is, precisely, to introduce a greater “regulating” play of market relations, to help to dynamise and modernise Chinese socialism. In his writings, Deng deliberately evokes the concept of “regulation” to suggest that, whereas with capitalism, it is the market that has to be regulated, with socialism it is the market that can play at least part of the regulating role. The market plays this role in the interaction between different publicly owned entities in China, as well as between the socialist sector and the non-socialist sector, and between the Chinese economy as a whole and the rest of the world. The Chinese comrades insist strongly against any equation of the market with capitalism. “We must understand theoretically that the difference between capitalism and socialism is not a market economy as opposed to a planned economy. Socialism has regulation by market forces, and capitalism has control through planning. Do you think that capitalism has absolute freedom without any control?...You must not think that if we have some market economy we shall be taking the capitalist road. That’s simply not true.” (Deng, Selected Works, vol.III, p.351)
  • Liberalisation does not have to be privatisation - this is another common and related conflation. The Deng reform process, beginning in 1978, has seen the opening up of significant sectors of the Chinese economy to social/co-operative/family unit and private ventures - but much of this is about creating new, “green-fields” opportunities for the non-state sector, rather than the alienation or sale of public property. There is, however, also privatisation, as noted above. A great deal of attention has been given to the balanced application of liberalisation, to achieving the correct interaction between state and non-state ownership, within the overall context of a socialist system.
  • China is not pursuing a Yeltsin-type dismantling of socialism - Another frequent, but ill-informed view frequently heard, is that Chinese economic reforms are following the “global” trend, a trend that is said to be exemplified by the Yeltsin “reforms” in Russia. The Chinese CPC leadership are, in fact, scathing about the Yeltsin “reform” process. In the first place, the Chinese economic reforms have been under-way since 1978, and are not merely a post-1990/1 reaction. More importantly, as we have noted above, the purpose of their engagement with global capitalist markets is to modernise and strengthen their own socialist sector, not to dismantle it. In the Russian case, there was simply a “big bang” sale (if not plain theft) of public property.

The Yeltsin “reforms” (which are capitalist in character) have:

  • Taken Russia to the brink of economic melt-down, a process somewhat checked in the recent, post-Yeltsin period by the blocking and slowing-down of the reforms
  • Handed over the commanding economic heights to a combination of emergent Russian mafioso capitalists, and foreign multi-nationals, thus
  • Greatly diminishing the sovereign national capacity of Russia,
  • Simply transformed state monopolies into privately-owned monopolies that, “liberated” from the discipline of the central plan, charge monopoly prices, resulting in
  • A major break-down in the inter-linkages within the national economy, provoking, amongst other things, the return to primitive bartering relationships between major corporations (so much for the superiority of the capitalist market!);
  • The resulting overall mass immiseration and unemployment crisis has, in turn, ironically deprived the newly emerged small and medium-sized private sector in services (restaurants, clothing, etc) of any meaningful mass market.

By contrast, the continued existence in China of a predominant public sector has meant that there is a real mass market for the emergent small and medium, privately-owned service sector, for instance. Thus, in the case of China, liberalisation, to benefit private small and medium-sized private enterprise, and the continued existence of a predominant public sector have worked to each other’s advantage.

Indeed, the existence of a dominant public sector has also enabled the Chinese to apply contra-cyclical measures to compensate for capitalist down-turns. In 1998, in response to the “Asian Contagion” crisis (which severely affected key Chinese export markets), and again in 2001, in response to the global capitalist down-turn, the PRC has introduced major public sector wage increases - of around 20%. These socialist demand stimulation measures have helped to sustain overall growth and development in the Chinese economy, and have also helped the newly emerged private sector in China in the process.

It should be conceded that our Chinese interlocutors were quick to insist that these were temporary, stabilisation measures, and that their growth strategy is not fundamentally based on a Keynesian, demand-stimulation paradigm. However, it is refreshing to find that even stabilisation measures in the face of global crises do not always have to be swingeing austerity measures. When we are told locally that, thanks to GEAR austerity measures, we have survived global turbulence better than other developing economies, the largest developing economy in the world, China, is always conveniently forgotten - which is not to say that in South Africa we have necessarily had the same demand stimulus options available.

The Chinese case challenges us to think differently about the inter-relationship between capitalism and socialism

All of the above suggests, as the SACP has been saying for some years now, that the relationship between socialism and capitalism is a lot more complex and dynamic than some of our previous assumptions would suggest. Socialism cannot flourish, let alone survive, by being sealed off behind an “iron” (or “bamboo”) curtain, it cannot develop dynamically, while being quarantined “in one country”, or “in one bloc”. Socialism in China, and surely any feasible socialism anywhere else in the world, cannot isolate itself from the global capitalist system, but nor can it simply open itself up and hand itself over, willy-nilly, Yeltsin-style, to the whims of the transnational corporations.

Socialism is a long-haul, transitional, and mixed system. A socialist society will combine socialist with capitalist economic forms, but with the former being predominant, steering, directing, but also interacting with private capital.

A predominant socialist sector in China, as we have seen above, has enabled the Chinese economy, including its own private sector, to weather the worst of the 1998 and 2001 global capitalist downturns. Indeed, what is more, there is compelling evidence to suggest that the relative short duration of the worst of the Asian Contagion crisis had a great deal to do with sustained growth in the Chinese economy in the midst of the crisis. A number of our Chinese interlocutors told us, with some amusement, that leading Asian capitalists had confessed to them that, without their investments in the PRC, they would have gone to the wall in 1998.

Perhaps the global capitalist system requires the engine of socialism to pull it through its own deepening structural crises?

These observations, incidentally, also have an important bearing on the SACP strategic slogan - “Socialism is the future, build it now!” There have been attempts within our alliance to suggest that this slogan is, at best, a woolly confusion, and at worst, it is a naÔve and dangerous piece of ultra-left adventurism. If, however, we understand the transitional, mixed character of socialism, and the interrelatedness of capitalist and socialist forms, then the task of building momentum towards, capacity for, and elements of socialism within South Africa in the present, can be understood as a necessary task for the advance and stabilisation of the NDR, albeit within the context of a still predominant capitalist system.

Possible practical lessons

We obviously need to be careful of too easily extrapolating a “blue-print” from the Chinese reality. In the Chinese case, the re-structuring of SOEs is occurring in the context of a situation in which, just 23 years ago, one hundred percent of the economy was publicly owned. In our situation, we have inherited a significant SOE sector, but within the context of a predominantly capitalist economy. The PRC also has numerous advantages that we do not enjoy - three decades of considerable social stability, economic growth of over 200% since the introduction of reforms in 1978, and a vast market (with some one-fifth of the world’s population).

Bearing these qualifications in mind, along with the totally different scale of things in our two societies, there are, nonetheless, a number of valuable practical lessons that we might consider.

  • An open-ended, practical and continually evaluated process. We have already noted that the Chinese, since 1978, have very self-consciously avoided a big-bang approach. They have also sought to find their own solutions, while, of course, learning whatever they can from other socialist experiments, and from capitalist countries. In contrast to the Yeltsin “big bang” privatisation reforms in Russia, to which there are frequent critical references in the PRC, the Chinese have been approaching restructuring (and reforms in general) cautiously, learning from their own experience, trying out a reform in a particular city, province or sector. In part this is very much an aspect of the post-1978 pragmatism of “feeling the rocks to cross the river” (Deng); of “learning truth from the facts”. The tendency in our country to present the restructuring of SOEs as a strategy that has been applied consistently from “Ready to Govern” through the “RDP” and onwards would seem strange to the Chinese government and Party, they expect for there to be lessons, surprises, unanticipated consequences, and the need for constant revision and comradely debate.
  • Role of the Party - in South Africa we sometimes speak loosely of “deploying” senior ANC comrades to business, or to the parastatal sector. But we would generally acknowledge that “deployment”, in these cases, is something of an exaggeration. At best, the ANC, or one of the alliance partners, helps to ensure the appointment of this or that comrade to a key position and that is often the end of the story. In the PRC, the role of the Party within SOEs is planned, formalised, structured and ongoing. The September 1999 “Decision” of the 4th Plenary of the 15th CC on SOEs, for instance, devotes relatively extensive attention to the matter:

“Strengthening and improving the Party leadership is the fundamental guarantee for speeding up the reform and development of SOEs. To manage SOEs well in general, efforts must be made to establish a leadership system and organisational and managerial systems in them that conform to the law of the market economy and China’s actual situation, to strengthen the building of their leadership, to give play to the Party organisations as the political core of enterprises, and to adhere to the principle of relying on the working class whole-heartedly” (p.20/1)

“It is a major principle to adhere to the Party’s leadership and bring into play the role of Party organisations as the political core of SOEs, and it is a principle over which we should never waver at any time.” (p21)

Obviously, great care is devoted to ensuring there is clear strategic direction given to SOEs, things are not left to chance.

  • Role of workers and worker organisations in SOEs - The September 1999 CC “Decision” on SOE reform, includes a number of important commitments in regard to workers in SOEs:

“To succeed in SOE reform and development, conscientious efforts must be made to respect workers’ status of being masters of their own enterprises, and to give full play to the enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of workers and staff members.”

“Resolute measures must be taken to protect workers’ economic interests and safeguard their democratic rights. More should be done to straighten out labour relationships, exercise equal rights according to law, and earnestly carry out labour contract and collective contract systems.”

“The roles of trade unions and workers’ congresses in democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision should be enhanced.”

“The democratic management system with workers’ congress as the basic form should be adhered to and improved, and the practice of democratic appraisal of enterprise leaders by the workers and opening corporate affairs to public scrutiny should be adopted.” (p.22)

The SACP delegation did not have sufficient time to gauge the degree to which these particular September 1999 CC decisions are actually being implemented in practice, however, the fact that they are stated policy is itself of some importance.

Challenges and difficulties

Will the Chinese socialist advance succeed? Our Chinese interlocutors were all well aware of the many risks and uncertainties involved in their struggle to advance and deepen socialism in their country.

They have chosen, as surely they are right to do, to interact dynamically with capitalism. They hope to use their socialist sector, state power, the Party, and worker and mass support to regulate, control and strategically steer the unfolding Chinese growth and development process. But the risk is, of course, that the engagement with capitalism will unleash material processes and class dynamics that engulf their own project. Among the many challenges, to which they themselves point, are:

  • The deepening divide between the fast-growing South Eastern coastal cities, and the relatively undeveloped Western hinterland. The Chinese reform process has taken the deliberate risk of allowing incredibly fast, but regionally skewed growth to occur in the coastal cities o





Gennady Zyuganov is the Chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, leader of the CPRF fraction at the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

Chairman of the National-Patriotic Union of Russia

His web site is www.zyuganov.ru


  1. Two Positions

At the turn of the millennium the development of the human race is acquiring a new quality that substantially changes the face of the modern world and the whole system of international ties and relations. This has become a commonplace in the reasoning of politicians, economists, philosophers and sociologists of diverse scientific persuasions and political sympathies. Everybody agrees that humankind is living through a period of intensive integration, the formation of world economic, political and cultural systems that go far beyond the framework of individual states.

This is reflected in the current term “globalization”. The word has become widespread because, being politically and economically neutral, it allows for contradictory, sometimes diametrically opposite interpretations. And the interpretations are multiplying year by year. There is no common view in the world on the essence, the motive forces and consequences of globalization. The argument, which is by no means merely theoretical, is hotting up, because it affects the interests of practically every inhabitant of the planet.

The advocates of globalization speak about the emergence of a “consumer”, “post-industrial”, “information” society etc. They welcome the advent of “a new world order” which is supposed to bestow on mankind an unprecedented degree of prosperity: higher living standards and quality of life, more jobs, broad and free access to information, and improved mutual understanding between different cultures and civilizations. Elimination of every kind of obstacle - state, ethnic and cultural - in the way of free movement of goods and people, capital and ideas. The smoothing out of social contradictions. And finally, universal peace and security.

In short, the whole world is our common home. Almost world-wide communism, only on a different - market - basis.

The opponents of the new world order prefer to speak of “mondialism”, “a world conspiracy” and even the advent of an apocalyptic “kingdom of the beast” in which there will be no room left for humankind, ethnic, cultural and personal identities and spiritual ideals. Opponents of globalization are becoming ever more numerous and vocal. Practically all the meetings and sessions of new world centers of economic dominance - the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization - have been accompanied by mass protest demonstrations. We have seen this in Seattle, Seoul, Prague, Davos and many other venues.

Protestors stress that the reign of international financial speculators makes the world economy increasingly unstable and unfair. Social and class inequalities are worsening. The social and economic gap between developed capitalist exploiting countries and the oppressed proletarian countries which are stuck with the role of a raw materials appendage and a dumping ground for the “golden billion” is deepening. The President of Brazil, Fernando Cardoso, recently described the economic policy of the leading capitalist powers as “the new apartheid”.

Fidel Castro is one of the more consistent critics of such globalization. The leader of the Cuban revolution stresses that this process is driven by the interests of a small group of trans-national corporations and some imperialist states. He is tireless in exposing its aggressive essence that is hostile to the interests and aspirations of the peoples of the world.

The opponents of globalization are outraged by the growing political influence of transnational corporations which dictate their will to whole states and peoples. They accuse the architects of the “new world order” of brazen interference in the affairs of sovereign states, which often takes the form of military interference. Resorting to direct aggression against “recalcitrance” kindling ethnic and intercommunal conflicts all over the world the West has in effect unleashed a new “creeping” world war in which millions of people have already perished.

The state of the Earth’s ecology, which is cynically being sacrificed to the interests of capital, is giving growing cause for concern.

The selfish super-consumerist rat-race launched by the West absorbs more and more non-renewable natural resources leading to irreversible changes of the environment with disastrous consequences for the whole humankind.

“The ecology of the spirit” is in an equally tragic state. It is the target of a massive onslaught of ubiquitous mass media which have been fully monopolized by big capital. It is duped by cheap mass culture with its cult of violence and sex. Under the guise of the “free circulation of ideas and information” a policy of information and cultural imperialism is implemented. Manipulation of people’s consciousness and feelings, interests and needs, a forced unification of the spiritual world at the lowest and most primitive level is turning humankind into a thoughtless mass, obedient to the architects of the “new world order”. So the phenomenon called “ globalization” is a tangle of contradictions that is becoming ever more tight. Humankind is becoming ever more powerful in scientific and technical terms. But at the same time it is becoming evident that the development of productive forces per se cannot resolve the problems and contradictions of the modern world. As the seventh Congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation pointed out, “the triumphs of technology, global computerization, the conquest of the four natural elements have not made the world a safer and a fairer place.”

If one proceeds from the obvious fact of steadily expanding human activities one can hardly speak about the process of globalization as a qualitatively new phenomenon in societal life. For this process is practically as old as human history. Isn’t the spread of primitive tribes all over the globe one of its first steps? Whatever advance of civilization one looks at — the use of fire, domestication of wild animals, land farming, irrigation, metallurgy, the invention of the wheel, of the sail, not to speak of the achievements of industrial revolution in the 18th-19th centuries - each marks a step towards greater mastery by humanity over the forces of nature and expanding the scope of our activities. The era of great geographical discoveries made a contribution to globalization at least as big as the creation of space communication systems.

So it would be more correct to speak about the modern stage of globalization. But it cannot be seen in isolation from the preceding stages.

The processes of globalization, that is, economic, political and cultural integration of humankind, started a long time ago and was already under way a hundred and a thousand years ago. It did not proceed in a smooth and conflict-free manner, but unevenly and was riddled with social and economic contradictions. Globalization in the 20th century is marked by the greatest degree of unevenness and the highest pitch of strife and contradictions. This stems from its new features that leave an imprint on the character of modern contradictions and the general background of development.

What are these new features?

Technologically, the modern stage of globalization has reached a point when there is practically no room left for expansion of economic activities over the earth’s surface. At the same time, the world’s oceans and the space near the earth is being increasingly developed. The “second nature” created by humanity - the production, energy, transportation, communication, housing and other infrastructure is, in terms of its scale and the energy flows it involves, becoming commensurate with the spaces and energies of the geosphere

Economically, the world division of labour is steadily deepening and inter and intrasectoral cooperation is growing stronger. Production relations and technological chains often transcend natural boundaries entangling the whole world. Simultaneously the process of concentration and internationalization of ownership of the means of production is under way. Ever more powerful transnational production system and economic associations are emerging with supranational coordination, regulation and management bodies. A global economy is emerging as a single organism in which everything is interconnected.

Similar processes are taking place in the political sphere. Economic integration dictates ever closer interstate links, the lifting of barriers in the way of the movement of goods, capital and labour power. From a phase when international relations were regulated by bilateral and multilateral agreements and organizations the world is passing on to international associations of a higher degree of political integration. An example in point is the integration of West European countries into a single European Union with supranational political bodies.

Finally, we see ever greater interaction and mutual enrichment of various cultures in the world. A single world cultural space is emerging. Thus the present era is notable above all for the fact that expansion has almost reached its logical conclusion. “Expansion” has practically ended and we now are entering an era of “in-depth” development. Globalization is entering its intensive phase.

One manifestation of this is, first, that ever broader and more complex - global - problems have arisen and are proliferating which cannot be solved by individual states or their regional associations, and call for combined efforts of the whole humankind. These are the problems of conservation of the environment, of feeding the world’s growing population, looking for new sources of energy, preserving peace and the survival of humankind in the nuclear age etc.

Secondly, we live in an era when world integration processes have dramatically accelerated. The main accelerator is the “information revolution”. Computerization has sharply increased the cohesiveness of the present-day world. Economic, political and cultural events in any point of the globe have an instant impact on the rest of the world. The speed with which managerial decisions are made and implemented has increased to an extraordinary degree. Global management has become a technical possibility.

Computer technologies are being introduced in all spheres in the life of the state and society. Thanks to the creation of the microprocessor the computer has ceased to be something available to a narrow circle of researchers, planners and politicians, to become an ordinary household appliance. In its cultural impact this can only be compared to the invention of book printing. Now personal life is coming to depend more and more on information and communication systems. And although an overwhelming majority of users of personal computers do no more than amuse themselves by playing electronic games or mindlessly surfing the internet, some results have already emerged. The personal computer has become an effective instrument in molding a certain cultural stereotype. The technical possibility is there for creating a worldwide system of values, and a uniform way of life.

Therefore an objective need arises for a world political and economic regulation center, and on the other hand, the material and technical prerequisites for the emergence and functioning of such a center are being formed.

We may be approaching a qualitative turning point in the development of human civilization. All that it takes is practically in place.

  1. humankind can now develop only as a single whole, otherwise we will simply be unable to cope with all our problems;
  2. we can in principle manage our own development in a conscious and planned way; and
  3. the level of modern technology makes it possible to address the most complex of tasks that arise along the way.

One might say that a new dimension of technical-economic, social-political and cultural progress is knocking on the door. But the crucial question as to what this new dimension will be like remains open. Its solution involves social, political and national interests. And the interests are still different, as they have always been. Which of these interests will triumph and which will be suppressed in the course of globalization? And if the interests are agreed and harmonized, in what concrete ways will it be done?

In short, we see another confirmation of the classic Marxist-Leninist thesis to the effect that any revolution - even if it is a scientific-technical revolution - exacerbates the question of power. Not only political and economic power, but also information, cultural and spiritual power. Developed capitalist countries in the First World, or “the golden billion” have a clear and unambiguous answer to this question: from now on and ever after globalization will proceed under our guidance. Humankind will live and develop according to our prescriptions and models.

Some of the best intellectual resources in the West have been harnessed to the development and fine tuning of such models. Huge financial, material and military resources are spent on their implementation.

  1. Three-Tiered Civilization

Western literature provides a vast and eclectic theoretical exploration of the new global world order. Standing out among its “spiritual fathers” are the philosophers Karl Popper and Fukuyama, the “grey eminence” of American foreign policy Zbigniew Brzsezinski and the financier Jacques Attali.

Karl Popper became widely popular in the West on account of his book The Open Society and Its Enemies. The gist of his argument is that human cognition is inherently imperfect, and absolute truth and the ideal model of society are beyond the reach of humanity. Popper openly claims that “history has no meaning”.

So he calls on humankind to be content with a form of social organization that is most open to modernization. In other words, the open society is a society that is at any time ready to sacrifice its historical values, cultural customs and spiritual traditions to “life-improving” and technological innovations.

What makes the idea of an open society so attractive for theoreticians and practicians of “globalization”? They hope it will provide the moral justification for their plans and help them find a universal principle that would provide a unifying value in the mosaic and contradictory world with its multitude of customs, traditions and religions. They are anxious to develop a mechanism that could “digest” the individuality of peoples and states in line with a single standard of the new world order.

George Soros, a well-known speculator and champion of “ globalization” writes in one of his articles that the idea of the open society gives due to the merits of the market mechanism while it does not idealize it. It recognizes the role of other, non-market values in society. On the other hand, he argues, this principle, recognizing the inherent diversity of our global society, provides an adequate conceptual basis for the creation of the necessary institutions.

What the famous billionnaire describes modestly as “institutions” is actually a world system of political, financial-economic and military-strategic organizations which should become effective instruments in establishing the global dictatorship of financial tycoons.

The geopolitical aspect of “globalization” has been thoroughly studied by Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the architects of American foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century, a teacher and mentor of the current US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Brzesinski claims that the shortest way to a global world order is a total hegemony of the “last superpower”, the United States of America. The aim of US policy, he writes in his book The Great Chessboard, should be two-fold: to strengthen its dominant position and to create a geopolitical structure to dampen the inevitable upheavals and tensions in the course of forced recarving of the world according to the templates of the new world order.

The earliest stage of such recarving, according to Brzesinski, should be the creation of the network of international links outside the traditional system of nation states. Already, he admits, that network consisting of international corporations is creating an unofficial world system for comprehensive cooperation on a global scale. Under the pressure of transnational corporations a new international legal framework is being created for legalizing the universal dominance of financial oligarchies, for their interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states that impede the establishment of such dominance.

The process of revision of the main norms of international law is in full swing. At the UN Millennium Summit held in September 2000 and attended by the leaders of 188 sovereign states, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “Our postwar institutions were created for the international world, but we live in a global world. To effectively react to this change is the main institutional task facing world leaders today.”

And his predecessor as UN Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, was even more candid. “Today the task is not just to maintain peace among states,” he wrote in 1994. It is necessary to find the means to settle the differences that divide peoples inside their own states. These new challenges dramatically change the meaning the world community has until recently read into the concept of peace-keeping. Is it permissible for any state under the cover of its sovereignty to violate human rights on its territory? Can one still regard as states the territories in which there is no continuity of politics? This, in my view, suggests that interference to rectify the shortcomings of undemocratic states is the moral duty of the international organization.”

Iraq and Serbia provide vivid illustrations of the methods that will be used for “corrective interference”. Russia and a number of other states have every ground for being worried that they may soon be put on that woeful list.

But as long as there are influential forces in the world that oppose such a development scenario overwhelming US military and political might are necessary in order to block any attempts to oppose such a new world order. That stage in the building of the new world order will, in the opinion of Brzesinski, continue for several more decades before a functioning system of global cooperation gradually assumes the role of an international “regent” capable of bearing the burden of responsibility for stability in the whole world. Such a global system will provide “proper legitimization of the role of America as the first, only and last true world superpower.”

Jacques Attali, former financial adviser to the French President and the first head of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has presented his historical philosophy of globalization in the book The Lines of Horizon.

His theory is that human history is all about successive change of social and economic systems that differ primarily in terms of their fundamental human values. In line with this theory, he singles out an era in which religious consciousness and its cult of the Holy was predominant. Then came the era of conquests with its cult of Might and the personality of the Monarch or Leader as the personification of Might. And finally, the era of trade and mutual exchanges which Attali describes as the Commercial System with its cult of money as a universal and absolute value.

Within this theory, the Commercial System is the highest and ultimate form of human development. Building on the fantastic achievements of science and new technology, it will at last unify the whole humankind in a global society that recognizes no national, state or religious distinctions. The new person born of the Commercial System will be free of any “restricting influences” in the shape of national roots, cultural traditions, state or political bias or even permanent family ties. On the strength of this Attali describes the new civilization that will emerge as the result of the triumph of such a world order as the civilization of Nomads who are only linked with each other and with the world by universal financial ties. Eventually “man will reproduce himself like a commodity and life will become an object of artificial fabrication and value.”

The ideological cover for the universal spread of the new world order is the fashionable concept of “the end of history” proposed by the American professor Fukuyama whereby the present Western civilization in the form of a liberal democracy with its values of selfish individualism, “the free market”, and “universal human rights”, is the final stage in the development of humankind.

So, the philosophy of “globalization” is based on the following main ideas:

The model of “an open society” by Popper as a social mechanism of constant modernization, or rather, “Westernization.”

US hegemony, Brszezinski-style, as the geopolitical basis of a new redivision of the world;

The commercial system of Attali as a civilization of money which ceases to be legal tender and becomes an absolute and universal value;

Fukuyama’s thesis that this system is the highest point of history.

It will readily be seen that the western “globalization philosophy” is aimed at preserving the western system.

As for the purely scientific aspect of the problem all the terms and definitions invented by bourgeois thought to designate the process of globalization and its modern stage are reduced to a more or less detailed description of its external features. These are not definitions, but circumlocutions that do not solve the question about the essence of the process, its motive forces, its concrete forms and features.

  1. The Essence of Globalization

Yes, globalization is an objective and necessary process that accompanies humankind throughout its history. On the other hand, it is a social process that takes the form of the activities and relations between the individuals, social groups, strata, classes, nations and civilizations. It is directly linked to their goals and interests. And this prompts a special methodology for its study which is only provided by the classic Marxist-Leninist theoretical heritage.

Lenin wrote that a Marxist “does not confine himself to stating that a process is necessary”, but finds out what social and economic system lends substance to the process, what social class determines this necessity.”

For instance, what are the modern global problems about? Are they phenomena arising out of “progress in general” or are they connected with specific social relations? Bourgeois theorists of globalization studiously avoid and fudge this question. Why is modern industrial production so predatory and profligate, leading to a crisis of resources and the environment? Is it a feature of “production in general” or is it because material production follows the market laws of deriving maximum profits, the laws of accumulation of capital that knows no bounds in its quest of self-growth?

Global problems are common to the whole humankind. But they have not been engendered by the whole humankind as a body, but only by a concrete social and economic system - capitalism, the group of the more advanced capitalist countries. Which brings us to the next dilemma: either the whole humankind will sweat it out on behalf of capitalism solving its problems at our own expense. Or capitalism will turn into a problem for humankind threatening its well-being and the very survival.

Take for example, the phenomenon that confronted humankind only in the second half of the 20th century and whose existence is not challenged by anyone and has been recognized in the declarations of international forums, notably the UN Conference held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The essence of this phenomenon is that it is impossible to spread the Western model of production and consumption to the whole world because of the resource and environmental limitations. It follows from this indisputable fact that because the Western model cannot be realized on a global scale, humankind as a whole should look for some other mode of existence and development. Let us describe that hypothetical mode as “sustained development,” a term as broad and neutral as globalization. But where do we go from here?

We find that one and the same indisputable fact can and does give rise to totally different, even diametrically opposite social and political conclusions. The concept of sustained development lends itself to very different interpretations.

One possible conclusion is that Malthus was right after all, that the law of diminishing soil fertility is incontrovertible and that the second rule of thermodynamics is universal. So, the solution may be to preserve the Western model of production and consumption only in the countries of “the golden billion” while the rest of the world will have to make sacrifices. The theoretical basis for such a solution was laid back in the 1970s in the series of reports commissioned by the Club of Rome, an elite organization of businessmen and scientists. They formulated the concepts of “limits to growth”, “zero growth” and “organic growth”. They all boil down to imposing quantitative limits on the development of productive forces within the former qualitative, capitalist, framework. Thus, headlong bourgeois commitment in progress, the endless consumer race have as their down side a profound historical and technological pessimism as expressed in the concept of “the end of history”.

Another possible conclusion is that the Western model of production and consumption should be overcome and dispensed with. Social progress should acquire a qualitatively new dimension.

This is the alternative as painted in the Program of the Communist Party of the Russian Front: “As it enters the new millennium humankind has been confronted with the most dramatic choice in its entire history, the choice of the road of further development. There are only options corresponding to opposite social class interests”.

The first is limitation or even the end of the growth of the world economy conserving the current structure of production, distribution and consumption. Its aim is to perpetuate the division of humankind into the “golden billion” and the periphery it exploits, to establish the global domination of developed capitalist countries through “the new world order”.

The second way is steady improvement of the well-being of the whole population of the Earth while preserving the global ecological balance through qualitative change of productive forces, the mode of production and consumption and humanistic reorientation of scientific and technological progress.

Thus, globalization is an ambivalent process with many variants. It can develop in different alternative ways. But it is impossible to understand these alternatives if one interprets globalization in the way it is done in modern Western literature. To understand this complex problem one has to turn to the classic heritage of the founders of Marxism-Leninism.

In accordance with historical materialism, the main and determining world trend in all phases in the development of human society and the driving force behind its deeper and ever more comprehensive integration is the process of socialization of labor.

Marx and Lenin provided a thorough analysis of that category. We will try later to clarify some of its aspects in relation to the modern epoch. But in the meantime let it be stressed the capitalist mode of production is making a big contribution to the socialization of labour. Moreover, capitalism itself creates prerequisites for the continuation of the same process in a different way that is free of the exploitation of person by person and class antagonism. As Lenin put it, “socialization of labour which is accelerating in thousands of forms and manifests itself in the growth of large-scale production, cartels, syndicates and trusts of capitalists and gigantic growth of the size and power of financial capital - this is the main material basis for the inevitable advent of socialism.”

So, the most general definition of the totality of modern phenomena designated by the term “globalization” is the capitalist form of socialization of labour which has reached a world-wide scale.

But there exist alternative forms of socialization of labour. In the modern era it can take place either in the form of ever more cruel subjugation of labour to capital or in the form of the liberation of labour from the power of capital.

The profound and world historic content of this alternative will become clear if one recalls that Marxism interprets the categories of labour and capital in a much broader way than in narrow economic terms. Labour is above all the generic feature of humanity, the mode of our existence, the mode of our development, both individual and social. Its essence is not just expending energy, but creativity. Thus, according to Marx, universal labour is “any scientific labour, any discovery, any invention.” Capital is reified, dead labour which has acquired a monetary value form and which subjugates living labour. The law of its development is limitless quantitative growth devoid of any qualitative certainty. Capital in principle does not care what kind of labour results in its own growth - the production of drugs or fabrication of narcotics, so the historical confrontation between labour and capital has a profound substantive character and covers not only economic, but practically all the key aspects of human life.

There is no and cannot be an alternative to the socialization of labour. But there was, is and will be an alternative to its capitalist form. “Socialism as an internationalist doctrine”, notes the Political Report of the Central Committee of the CPRF to the 7th Congress of the Party, “by no means denies world integration processes, the mutual intertwining of the economies, cross-pollination of cultures and interaction of original civilizations. But it provides a real alternative to the ugly forms world integration takes under capitalism.”

Capitalist globalization carries an embryo, the material possibility of transition to a new and more just social system. But this possibility to become reality it must be freed from its present capitalist social shell.

Humanity is at a cross-roads in our history and it is by no means proven that the world is doomed to develop according to the scenarios of the Western architects of the “new world order”.


  1. Is Capital Growing “Kinder”?

In the past decade many in the West and in this country have said and written that in the 20th century, and especially during the globalization phase ushered in by the Second World War, capitalism has dramatically changed its nature. Allegedly, it is no longer predatory and exploitative in character, it has turned its face to people, to meeting our needs and increasingly serves “the common good”. The prosperity in which the population of the “golden billion” countries wallows is cited as proof. Show a little more patience and restraint, and capitalism in the whole world will acquire a “human face” and everybody will be just as prosperous.

In many ways capitalism indeed is not what it was at the beginning of the last century? But why? One should take a careful look at it.

Lenin in his time noted that Russia, and indeed any other capitalist country, had two varieties of capital: democratic “populist” capital and Black Hundred - Octobrist capital. I can’t help quoting at some length from his letter to Gorky (of January 3, 1911) because it is germane to our topic.

“...The only guarantee of the victory over capitalism is its own growth. Marxists do not support any reactionary measure such as banning trusts, limiting trade and so on. But to each his own: Let Khomyakovs and Co. build railways across Persia, let them send the Lyakhovs (Khomyakov was a major land owner and statesman and one of the architects of the colonial policy of tsarism in the East. Lyakhov was a colonel who took part in putting down the national liberation movement in Iran - G.Z.), and it is the business of the Marxists to expose them in the eyes of the workers. They are out to gobble you up, to strangle you and choke you, resist.

“Resistance to colonial policy and international plunder by organizing the proletariat, by protecting freedom for the proletarian struggle does not arrest the development of capitalism but accelerates it making it resort to more cultured, and more technically sophisticated methods of capitalism. There is capitalism and capitalism. There is the Black Hund



Daniel Cirera is a member of Executive Committee and in charge of international relations of FCP

Parti communiste franÁais
October 2001

Last Sunday’s unleashing of the American riposte to the 11 September terrorist attacks by bombing Afghanistan opens a new phase, heavily laden with anxiety and questioning.

Looking back, we can appreciate, one month later, the coherence and clarity of our initial stand - original in the French political scene: solidarity with the american people, sharp condemnation of terrorism, a call for a spirit of responsibility, a rejection of the logic of war. The stand, though out and responsible, expressed more precisely at the HumanitÈ FÍte and the National Assembly by Robert Hue on a number of occasions and adapted to meet changing a changing situation, has enabled us to influence public opinion, to weigh in on the debate and so on the political decisions.

We tried, as best we could, to assess what happened on that 11 September 2001, seeing that many formerly set ideas has been caught off balance, that some certainties have been shattered - no doubt first of all amongst the Americans.

Even today, the coherence of this position should enable us to react effectively to the new situation created by the American riposte, in evaluating the dangers, in calling for vigilance, and bearing in mind that we are neither in 1991 and the Gulf War that followed the fall of the Berlin wall nor in 1999 with NATO’s strikes against Serbia.

What we have to do is to contribute to ensuring that a legitimate reply to the 11 September terrorist attacks does not unleash an uncontrollable spiral of violence, does not add fresh hot beds of war to the tragedy of the terrorist attacks. It is a matter of opposing terrorist barbarity with justice, not with vengeance.

The anxieties, the criticisms we are led to express in no way attenuate the assessment we made in the first hours following the atrocious suicide attacks which, less than a month ago caused, in an instant, thousands of deaths in Manhatten and Washington.

Much has already been said and written about that event and the shock waves it sent across the world and on the future of international relations. Everyone has the premonition that the consequences will be considerable. As we have said: the world has not changed overnight - but there will be a before the 11th September and after.

For this report I will limit myself to some ideas.

Yes, for us nothing, absolutely nothing, no cause can justify such acts. The more we think about it the stronger our conviction on this score.

With terrorism, there can be no “ifs” or “buts”. Those who committed these attacks, those who supported, inspired them, like Ben Laden, must be hunted down, tried, sentenced and punished. The regimes that protect them, arm and finance them, must be punished a outlawed from the international community.

We share the need for international cooperation on police matters, on information, on the struggle against the financial circuits that feed them - namely the tax havens. We can only wonder, in this connection, at the facilities that certain islamist fundamentalist leaders have enjoyed, up to now, in Western countries like Great Britain, Germany - and also the United States.

As far as we in France are directly concerned, regarding the measures to be taken regarding internal security, these must be adapted to the reality of the dangers, legally framed, genuinely limited in time; Parliament must be informed and consulted on whole package of arrangements aiming at struggling against terrorism, whether they be security measures of action against tax havens.

We also fight terrorism through our progressive and communist values, because the ideology they uphold is, in fact, the very negation of emancipation and human progress. It is the exaltation of hatred and of totalitarian violence against democracy. It is the absolute cynicism of those for whom the ends justify the any means - including the most barbarous ones. It is the negation of the peoples’ capacity for political action to tackle inequality and injustice and to transform the world.

The instrumentalisation of religion to political ends, the manipulation of frustrations and despair to achieve power, are the very opposite of progressive values. In the name of pretended resistance to oppression, they lead to other oppressions, often yet more revolting.

Indeed, it must be remembered that the most radical Islamist fundamentalist groups have been better able to develop and proliferate thanks to Western indulgence - often with the active support of the US Administration or of States closely allied to it - either as counter-weights to thwart progressive forces or, as in Afghanistan, as active “pawns” in Cold War clashes.

Recalling these facts must in no way lead to any sort of a posteriori justification for criminal actions. Allow me to quote what Salman Rushdi said about it:

“Justifying such atrocities by attacking the policies of the American government is to deny the very basis of all morality, namely that individuals are responsible for their acts. Moreover, terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate objectives by illegitimate ends. The terrorist drapes himself in other people’s demands so as to hide his real motivations. Whatever many have been the aim of the assassins, it seems highly unlikely that the building of a better world formed any part of them .”

If I have insisted so much on what terrorism represents it is because we have a responsibility to fight and confront the ideologies that underlie and claim to justify it. Because they are the absolute opposite of our conception of the transformation of the world which place the human being, freedom and democracy at the very centre. And because terrorist actions themselves and their consequences on social and political life are themselves a potential danger for these values and for struggle by progressives.

It is clear that the terrorist attacks of 11 September, like the struggle to eradicate them, imply give ourselves the means of doing so, including, if necessary, the use of force.

The question that is raised today is whether the riposte decided by the United States - and by them alone - with the bombing of Afghanistan, to be followed, it is said, by possible actions against other countries, is the right response to the problem raised.

While we are only in the first few days of a campaign that seems likely to be a long one and the information available to us is very incomplete, we are very worried and say so. We are publicly raising a number of questions.

Firstly we are thinking of the Afghan people, already sorely tried by decades of war and by the appaling oppression of the Taliban regime. Everything must be done to avoid the operations already under way from adding still further to their sufferings.

The there is the serious danger of destabilisation in a number of countries, particularly the Arabo-Moslem ones. This new American demonstration of its power bears the danger of supporting (even if against its will) and fuelling the “holy war” discourse in the face of what could be seen as a new crusade of the strong against the weak.

Although we think a riposte is legitimate, it can only be acceptable and accepted in an international context, in a context of law, which would enable justice to be rendered for the victims. If the Americans want to take the law into their own hands they run the serious danger of fuelling the spirit of vengeance, of falling into the trap set by Ben Laden and the Talibani - and involve the whole international community in that danger.

We say with all seriousness: the effectiveness of the struggle against terrorism call for the commitment of the international community of nations and not for rallying behind Washington. It is in the very interest of the States concerned - including the United States. Otherwise all sorts of backsliding are possible with an all to foreseeable spiral of violence.

It is thus imperative - an we cannot say this often enough - that, in view of the extreme gravity of its implications, all use of force be framed by international law and that all decisions be taken under the Êgis of the United Nations Organisation.

No doubt UNO is not without its weaknesses, due partly to its structure but also to the policies of its most powerful members. The question of its democratisation is more than ever on the agenda. Nevertheless, even now it offers a legal and political framework which must be imposed on all and which may be able to attenuate the relations of domination and arbitrary power at work in international relations.

As for France’s participation in the struggle against terrorism and in military operations. they bear a double significance for us.

Firstly, we agree to its commitment to this struggle.

And, inseparably from that, is our opposition to our country taking part in operations whose heavy consequences I have just outlined.

It is in this spirit, and also because the global question of the struggle against terrorism concerns the whole country that Parliament must not only be informed but be enabled to discuss and decide France’s attitude.

This is why we maintain our demand for a vote in the National Assembly on France’s commitment to military operations. It would be a perfectly normal procedure. And what would there be to fear in Parliament assuming its responsibilities in moment as grave as this? On the contrary, the institutions of the Republic and its political representatives would emerge strengthened in the eyes of its citizens.

Secondly, France and the European Union have a special responsibility - that of maintaining a firm and strict dialogue with the United States to ensure that the means used correspond to the objectives set, to affirm international law, to promote the role of the United Nations, so engage in an active dialogue with the countries of the South and particularly of the Mediterranean in this most dangerous time.

We are obliged to note, today, the weakness. not to say complete absence, of any strong European initiatives at a moment when there appear heavy international reconstitutions - there too with still very unclear consequences - with the new role being played by Russia, the growing weight of India or of China. This new situation, in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks undoubtedly calls for deep thought on the role that Europe could play, on what has to be transformed for it to be able to do so, on the means that it must have to become a real interlocutor and an effective lever for a progressive transformation of globalisation.

The brutal affirmation of a hegemonic leadership, the unconsidered use of force, are today finding their limitations and aggravating the tensions. It is not a question of waiting for a sudden about turn from the American Administration. Its horizon is limited to the defence of its own interests. But new issues have appeared. And the development in Washington, at the start, on the nature of the riposte, the awareness of being on the razor’s edge, and, in a section of American public opinion, anew feeling of vulnerability, the discovery of a certain common destiny with the rest of the world, all this opens up areas for political intervention, particularly for the Europeans. On condition that some political will exists.

Finally, and this is not the least of the questions at issue, the struggle against terrorist ideologies, against fundamentalisms, their eradication, calls for an intense political struggle for progressive alternatives to ultra-liberal globalisation, its logics of exclusion and hegemony, for reforms that call to question the dominance of the financial markets, for policies of a globalisation of co-development. The issues raised involve the reorganisation of the world and the building of international law, to answer the aspirations for a juster, safer and peaceful world. It is a matter of rebuilding hope, after the collapse of so many hopes, illusions and models - and not only in what is called the Third World. It is also in this spirit that we have been engaging in thinking about the building of a “Forum for another World” which may take place early next year.

At this time when essential questions assume an urgent character, that of a very wide international investment - involving the Americans, but also the Europeans - in settling the Israelo-Palestinian conflict take on fresh force and credibility. The appeals for bold initiatives for a negotiated solution in the Near East must be heard - a solution that takes into account the right of the Palestinian people to a viable State and the right of the Israeli people to live in safety. Despite the blood that is being shed every day, ways remain open for negotiation, the statements of the American President in support of a Palestinian State being not the least of the signals in that direction.

It is thus a call for vigilance, for thinking and for debate that we are launching at this moment of great anxiety and great uncertainty. It is an appeal that demands the availability of real information, as complete as possible, on events, on intentions and on that is being envisage.

In this connection, the holding back or filtering of information, unacceptable in principle, carries the danger of arousing all sorts of suspicion, all sorts of interpretation and all sorts of manipulation.

This debate that we have begun, open to society, grappling with events and with the reality of public opinion, must fuel our thinking on the Communist Project up to and beyond our Congress. Because the basis of the Project is political action to change the world and society - questions that have been running through all discussions, through everyone’s head, so to speak, since the explosive shock of 11 September.

It is through the coherence of our position that we can effectively participate in the public debate, in France and on the international level, in society and in its institutions, in Parliament in the left majority and even up to the Government.


1 Mayibuye Centre Historical Papers Archive, Brian Bunting’s Collection, Interview with Moses Kotane, 17 April 1972.
2 Discussion with V. Shemyatenkov, Moscow, 6 January 1997.
3 Centre for Storage of Contemporary Documentation, Minutes of the Secretariat, No 1, item 3g, 2 November 1961.
4 CSCD, Decisions taken by the instruction of the Secretaries of the CPSU Central Committee without recording in the minutes, No 478, 28 November 1961.
5 African Communist, 1978, No 75, p.40.
6 Discussion with A.Urnov, Moscow, 9 July 1999.
7 Discussion with V. Shemyatenkov, Moscow, 6 January 1997.
8 MCHP, BBC, Interview with J. Slovo, typed October 1973.
9 MCHP, BBC, Interview with C. Hani, Berlin, 27 May 1974.
10 Ibid.
11 CSCD, Decisions of the CPSU Central Committee Secretariat, 11 April 1969.
12 CSCD, Decisions of the CPSU Central Committee Secretariat, taken by voting, 15 July 1970.
13 MCHP, Yusuf Dadoo’s Collection, M. Kotane to Y. Dadoo, 13 January 1970.
14 African Communist, N 84, 1981, p.21
15 Tambo O. Preparing for Power, Heinemann, London, 1987, p. 203-204.
16 London Review of Books, London, 5 August 1993.
17 Ibid.
18 African Communist, N 106, 1986, p. 35-36.
19 Ibid. p 35.
20 Dawn. Souvenir Issue. p.24
21 MCHP, ANCLonC, Thoughts on the future of the alliance: J.S., April 1969, p. 4-5.
22 Dawn, Souvenir Issue, p.34.
23 The decision of the Politbureau of the CPSU Central Committee P 58/52 of 18 October 1967, item 1, referred to in: CSCD, Minutes of the Secretariat, N 193, item 24g, 20 July 1970.
24 Sunday Times, Johannesburg, 29 May 1983.
25 Discussion with Joe Slovo, Nagornoye, 10 May 1995.
26 Discussion with Oliver Tambo, Moscow, 3 March 1976.
27 Presentation by J.Slovo at the Africa Institute, Moscow, 19 September 1987.
28 Statement of the delegation of the South African Communist Party to the meeting of delegations, 5 November 1987, p.4.
29 Presentation by J. Slovo at the Institute of Social Sciences, Moscow, 29 April 1988.
30 Ellis S. and Sechaba T., Comrades against Apartheid: the ANC and the South African Communist Party in exile. J. Curry, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, 1992, p.58.
31 Cape Times, 9 January 1995.
32 Argus, Cape Town, 30 April 1984.
33 Daily Dispatch, Port Elizabeth, 29 September 1987.
34 Ellis S. and Sechaba T., Comrades against Apartheid, p.58.
35 Cape Times, 5 December 1994.
36 Cape Times, 6 December 1991.
37 Ellis S. and Sechaba T. Comrades, p.198.
38 Pravda, 24 April 1991.
39 MCHP, BBC, Interview with C. Hani, Berlin, 27 May 1974.
40 Star, Johannesburg, 11 September 1991.
41 Dawn. Souvenir Issue, p.35.
42 Ibid. p.37.
43 Ibid. p.48
44 ‘Chris Hani’s memorandum’, (1969), s.l. p.1
45 Ibid., p.4
46 Ibid., p.5
47 Discussion with C. Hani. Moscow. 27.4.1992.
48 Discussion with J. Modise, Dar es Salaam, 12 June 1999.
49 New Nation. Johannesburg . March 30 - April 4, 1990
50 Ibid.