Throughout April, together with our allies, the SACP (South African Communist Party) waged a campaign to intensify the struggle against corruption. We launched the 34-days of intensified struggle on the 29th March at a highly successful seminar on corruption in Braamfontein. Through April, and in honour of our fallen hero, Comrade Chris Hani, we carried forward the campaign in communities and in work-places. On Friday 30th April there was a massive SACP-led march in Durban against corruption led by our general secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande, and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) general secretary, Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi.
And on the following day, May Day 2010, as SACP speakers, together with our comrades from COSATU and the ANC, we used the occasion of Workers’ Day countrywide to conclude this first phase of what must now be an ongoing and intensified struggle against the scourge of corruption.
But why has the SACP chosen the theme of an intensified struggle against corruption? Are there not other important issues confronting the working class in SA at this time? Yes, there are many challenges, but unless we defeat the scourge of corruption everything else will be lost.
The struggle against corruption is a moral struggle, but it is not just a moral struggle. It is part and parcel of the struggle of the working class and popular forces against those who are compromising, weakening, undermining and literally selling out our national democratic revolution.
To understand why we say this, it is important to step back a little and think about the present SA reality.
Sixteen years of democracy and yet our people still live in poverty.
On Tuesday this past week, we celebrated 16 years of democracy in SA. In those 16 years, together, we have achieved many things. And yet the workers and poor of SA continue to suffer with poverty wages, unemployment, land hunger, poor health-care facilities and generally poor education and training opportunities.
Over the past 16 years we have achieved many things.
But when we started out in 1994 the unemployment rate (narrowly defined) was at crisis levels of 24%. By the middle of 2008, just before the global capitalist crisis hit SA, and after 15 years of economic growth, where was the unemployment rate (narrowly defined)? It was more or less exactly where it had been when we started out – 24%!! (Since the recession, and the loss of nearly 1 million jobs last year, this unemployment crisis has worsened)
When we started out in 1994, after centuries of racial oppression, we were one of the most unequal societies in the world. And now, after 16 years of "service delivery" to our people, where are we? Shockingly, our income inequality (measured by the so-called GINI coefficient) tells us that we remain as unequal as ever. We are one of the worst in the world. And this inequality remains highly racialised. When we started out in 1994, in our Research and Development Program (RDP) document we estimated that the housing shortage was 3 million. Incredibly, over the last 16 years we have actually built more than 3 million low cost houses. So what is the housing shortage now? According to the Department of Human Settlements the housing backlog is somewhere between 2 and 3 million houses!!
Why do we seem to be going around in a circle? Why, when we have done so many things over the last 16 years, do we seem to be arriving back in the same place?
The DA and other opposition parties tell us that we cannot go on blaming apartheid. And, in a way, the SACP agrees with them – (but only to disagree with them radically, of course, in the end). Yes, it is true that we cannot go on blaming apartheid. It is capitalism that we must blame.
After all, we have dismantled the apartheid system, we have abolished apartheid laws and the apartheid constitution. But beneath apartheid there was always a system supporting and shaping it. and that system was a capitalist system.
And before apartheid, during the period of segregationism of Jan Smuts there was a system that rolled on and on, shaping the destiny of our country and its people.and that system was a capitalist system.
And before segregationism, during the period of colonial conquest and dispossession there was a system that sent armies to our shores, that laid down railway lines and built colonial ports, that coerced millions of peasants into migrant labour. It was a system that underpinned the formation of SA itself back in 1910, now almost exactly 100 years ago..and that system was a capitalist system.
We have abolished apartheid, Smuts has come and gone, the era of imperial conquest and settlement of our country lies in the past.but what continues to roll on is the same oppressive system of capitalism.
And here, we are not talking about capitalism in general, but the particularly virulent brand of semi- colonial capitalism that has been imposed on SA over the last one hundred years. It is a brand of capitalism that persists to this day.
If we are to understand why, after 16 years of democracy and a huge amount of "service delivery" to our people, we are still going around in a circle – then it is absolutely essential that we understand the nature of this South African capitalist growth path. We need to understand it, in order collectively to uproot it and destroy it, and place our country on a new developmental path.
South Africa`s semi-colonial capitalist growth path
In order to understand the main features of the capitalist growth path that have been in place over the last 100 years, it is necessary to first remember how capitalism came to SA. It did not emerge organically. It was imposed, brand-new, out of the box, imported from the most advanced capitalist countries of the late 19th century. It was the mining revolution in the late 19th century shipped in from outside that marked the beginnings of SA`s capitalist revolution.
Ever since, our economy has been dominated by these realities that shaped our society:
Still today, SA is over-dependent on exporting unprocessed, primary commodities, like minerals.
Still today, SA is over-dependent on importing manufactured goods, machinery and technology and luxury goods.
Still today, our economy is dominated by a web of powerful mining and financial corporations.
Still today, there is a very high level of monopoly concentration in our economy – the many scandals around price-fixing of bread or steel, for instance, uncovered by the Competition Commission, are an indication of this. Linked to all of the above – our small- and medium-scale industries are very poorly developed and our manufacturing sector is weak (and it has become even weaker over the last ten years as many parts of our country have been de- industrialised). Yet, these are the sectors that are generally most labour-intensive.
Still today, as at the beginning of capitalism in SA, we have a very divided labour market. On the one hand, a small stratum of skilled artisans and technicians – formerly almost all exclusively white. And, on the other hand, a mass of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers. Originally the majority of these workers were migrant workers to the mines. But with the development of capitalism, there arose a more settled, urbanised black working class – but this didn`t change the highly divided labour market.
We continue to have a divided working class because our education and training system still reproduces a tiny minority of skilled persons, and a mass of under-skilled and often unemployable people. We have a divided working class because the mass of workers and poor continue to be marginalised in bleak and faraway dormitory townships. Even our 3 million RDP houses have reproduced this kind of apartheid space – Group Areas live on in reality, if not in law. Now they are reproduced by the capitalist property market.
Combined together, these key features of SA`s capitalist growth path lie at the heart of the explanation to the question: Why, 16 years into democracy, do we seem to be going around in a circle?
We have to place SA onto a different growth path. This is exactly was President Zuma said in his State of Nation Address to Parliament this year. This is exactly was cde Pravin Gordhan said in his budget speech this year. This is exactly what government had in mind when it unveiled our new Industrial Policy Action Programme this year. IPAP is a critical component of changing our present semi-colonial capitalist growth path. The same applies to all of our other strategic priorities – job creation, rural development, health-care including an NHI, education and training, breaking out of the dormitory township mould and building mixed-income communities, fighting crime and corruption – these are not disconnected challenges – they are all interconnected and integral to putting our society onto a different developmental path.
But why did we not begin to do this a lot sooner?
The Subjective Factor – the 1996 Class Project
So far, we have been looking at the objective reality that we are confronting – this semi-colonial capitalist system that goes on reproducing poverty, unemployment and inequality. But to explain why we have not seriously transformed this objective reality, it is also important to look at ourselves, the subjective reality – in other words, we need to look at what has been happening within our own movement – the ANC-led alliance.
Over the last ten years, after a difficult and protracted ideological and organisational struggle within our movement – the SACP, together with a wide range of Alliance forces, from the branch level up, succeeded in defeating the domination within the ANC and government of an anti-left, reformist current – what we called "the 1996 class project".
In the media, and among our opponents, our struggle against this tendency has often been portrayed as a narrow sectarian battle between personalities and factions simply to seize control over the ANC. It is important to keep reminding ourselves that this was never what our struggle against the "1996 class project" was about.
We said it was a struggle against reformism, and for a very precise reason. From the mid-1990s, the ANC came to be dominated by a tendency that was unable and unwilling to recognise that advancing and defending the national democratic revolution after 1994 required an intensified struggle to radically transform (and not merely reform) the semi-colonial features of SA`s century-long capitalist growth path.
Instead, they believed that market-led growth (i.e. in practice, the perpetuation of the same semi-colonial growth path), but now under the co-direction of a new black capitalist and political class stratum, was the key strategic objective of the post-1994 NDR. "Go out and get filthy rich!" they told ANC leadership cadres.
But this "1996 class project" had a whole series of internal contradictions. One of these contradictions was the tension between:
- the requirements for restoring capitalist accumulation back to its traditional growth path after a decade of deepening crisis in the last years of apartheid, on the one hand;
- and the primitive accumulation process required for establishing a new stratum of black capitalists ("capitalists without capital"), on the other.
The first objective required that the new political stratum use state power to create an investor friendly environment, to facilitate conditions for major South African corporations to expand regionally and internationally, to take a tough line on the budget deficit (i.e. reduce the tax "burden" on the bourgeoisie), and to address bottle-necks that had built up during the last 15 years of apartheid rule. It also required the stabilisation of bourgeois "rule of a law", the guarantee of property rights, and "sound" political management of the state (i.e "sound" as assessed by the international ratings agencies and transnational auditing firms).
The second process was faced with the dilemma of how a stratum of aspirant capitalists was to acquire capital. Two inter-linked strategies have been used to spur the creation of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) capital:
Using legislation and other means, the existing bourgeoisie has been required to reserve a slice of the action for BEE entrepreneurs. In essence, this has been a marriage of convenience between elements of the new political caste in the state and established capital. In exchange for the lobola of "market friendly" state policies, established capital grudgingly agreed to release a percentage of ownership stakes to the new elite.
We know, of course, that this kind of narrow BEE empowerment has been full of weaknesses. Targets are seldom met. Not all of the hungry capitalists without capital can be accommodated in the board-room. BEE capitalists were often given highly marginal operations (like many of the BEE mines – see the recent Aurora scandal). Much of BEE capital is also highly indebted capital. It is often shares on loan requiring re-payment over a five-year period, for instance, and subject to the fluctuations of the stock market. BEE capital is, therefore, also typically not productive capital – but rather capital taken out of productive circulation – and therefore out of job-creating investment.
Moreover, this BEE capitalist stratum often does not, and cannot, play the full role of a capitalist class. Its ownership role is often nominal (it fronts for others), and its active managerial role in the investment and redistribution of capital is limited. These are the reasons we have described it as having "compradorial" tendencies – i.e. it often acts as a go-between, representing the interests of big capital (both domestic and international) in local deals, particularly state tenders.
The use of BEE charters and legislation to levy capital from the existing bourgeoisie to empower a new stratum of black capitalists has been ONE source of BEE capital. The second major route has been the shameless looting of public resources. Like all emergent capitalists before them – from the modernising landowners of 17th century England who enclosed the commons, to the Randlords of South Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – our own emerging black capitalists have often shown little concern for the niceties of law, or respect for public property and resources.
Over the past decade and a half, there has been a massive looting of public resources, using state procurement whether on a grand scale (as with the arms package) or on the micro, local government level. Privatisation deals, tender-preneurship, javelin-throwing, inflated "performance" bonuses in parastatals, have all been mechanisms for this kind of primitive accumulation. Some of this has had the sanction of "law", much of it has been plain corruption.
It is easy to see how, sooner or later, the 1996 class project would run into a series of internal contradictions, particularly between the requirements of upholding a bourgeois rule of law that would meet the approval of Ernest & Young and their kind, on the one hand, and the inherent lawlessness implicit in a primitive accumulation process parasitic on the state and public resources, on the other.
From around 2005, the contradictions between the interests of those who were now firmly established as capitalists (and who were happy for a blind eye to be turned on their own earlier plundering) and those who felt they had not yet sufficiently arrived began to play themselves out within the ANC and government. The leading personalities associated with the1996 class project were unable to maintain stability among the contradictory forces that they themselves had unleashed. This contributed directly to their defeat at the ANC`s Polokwane 2007 national conference.
As we have said before, the forces propelling this defeat were themselves not united. On the one hand, the SACP, COSATU and many others within the ANC advanced a PRINCIPLED criticism of the reformist policies of the 1996 class project. On the other hand, there were those whose opposition to the circle around former President Mbeki was rooted not in policy considerations, but in petty personal rivalries, frustrated business ambitions, and a sense of injustice that the rule of law was being bent for others, but not for them.
The new tendency
The current challenges and tensions within the ANC are essentially between:
- Those for whom Polokwane was about clearing more space for their own appetites, for their own turn at the primitive accumulation feeding-trough
- And all of us, those for whom the ousting of the Mbeki group was about creating the conditions to change policy, to focus on the key task of placing our country on to a different growth path, to focus on our major strategic priorities – job creation, health-care, education, rural development and fighting crime and corruption.
And this is why, on this May Day 2010, as the SACP, we are saying that the key objective challenge of our national democratic struggle in 2010 going forward is to place our country onto a new developmental path.
But if we are to rise to this objective challenge, then we must, simultaneously address the key subjective challenge – to defeat the scourge of corruption in our society in general, including in the private sector, of course, but, especially, within our own ranks, within our own movement, and within government.
Over 40 years ago, a young Chris Hani bravely drafted and attached his signature to a memorandum addressed to the ANC leadership in exile. In the memorandum Hani and his co-signatories sought to analyse why the armed struggle was flagging. The memorandum identified factionalism, personal favouritism, a loss of revolutionary zeal and morality and the corroding impact of corruption within our own ranks. Some in the leadership at the time had Hani arrested for "mutiny".
However, others in the ANC leadership recognized the wisdom and constructive intentions of Comrade Chris and his comrades and they were eventually released. The memorandum played a direct role in the convening of the ANC`s famous Morogoro Conference in 1969, and this, in turn, led to the re-vitalisation of our movement and a dramatic upturn in popular revolutionary struggle in our country in the next decade.
In 2010, let us honour the revolutionary memory of Comrade Chris Hani. On the shop-floor, in parastatals, in the public and private sectors, in our communities and organisations, let us all solemnly commit ourselves to stand up against and root out all forms of abuse and corruption.
Together, let us be vigilant!
Let the tenderpreneurs, the fraudsters, the rent-seekers, those who grow fat from stealing from the people, let them tremble!
A Luta Continua! Long Live the Fighting Spirit of Chris Hani!!
May 5, 2010